Articles

A Case Against All Caps for Worship Lyric Projection

By April 23, 2013 October 17th, 2016 9 Comments
Worship Lyric Projection

From time to time I see worship lyrics projected with all letters capitalized (all caps). Even though using all caps in advertising looks stylish, using all caps for worship lyric projection is self-defeating. We project words on the screen to aid our audience in their worship singing experience so if they don’t know the words to a song, they can easily read them and take part in the event. The clearer and more readable the words are, the more engaged an audience can be in worship because less brain power is needed to decrypt the type.

The way we read quickly, typically at a rate of three to four words per second, is to comprehend words by their shape and not by their individual letters. A fitting example of this can be found in the following paragraph. Notice how even though the letters between the first and last letters of the word are mixed up, you can still swiftly read the sentences without much hesitation.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

This is possible because the first and last letters of a word create a visual boundary that helps our brains recognize the word. When we use all caps, we loose the shape words create and our brains cannot quickly distinguish them. To read and comprehend words that are all capitalized, our eyes need to look at the individual letters of a word and this requires more concentration which results in less audience engagement.

Here is the same paragraph as the example above and is now written with only capital letters:

AOCCDRNIG TO RSCHEEARCH AT CMABRIGDE UINERVTISY, IT DEOSN’T MTTAER IN WAHT OREDR THE LTTEERS IN A WROD ARE, THE OLNY IPRMOETNT TIHNG IS TAHT THE FRIST AND LSAT LTTEER BE AT THE RGHIT PCLAE. THE RSET CAN BE A TOATL MSES AND YOU CAN SITLL RAED IT WOUTHIT A PORBELM. TIHS IS BCUSEAE THE HUAMN MNID DEOS NOT RAED ERVEY LTETER BY ISTLEF, BUT THE WROD AS A WLOHE.

Did you notice that it takes more concentration and time to read the paragraph? That is because our brains need to spend extra time recognizing the shapes of letters rather than the faster alternative of word shape recognition.

The purpose of song lyric projection is to help our audience be active in the worship singing experience. We want to do everything we can to foster this and to remove any distraction that gets in the way. I recommend that you continue to use sentence case structure to project your worship song lyrics and explore alternative techniques for creative stylization.

What is your experience with all caps for worship lyric projection?

Need help composing, editing and presenting worship slides? Download The Worship Media Handbook by Jeff McIntosh.

9 Comments

  • Jeremy says:

    We sometimes use all caps on certain words for visual effect. I didnt find any difference when reading the all caps as opposed to the normal upper and lower. Maybe I am superhuman. =)

    • CMG says:

      Hey Jeremy, the second paragraph with all caps isn’t an accurate test because you just read the same exact text above. Tt should also be noted that the increased amount of concentration needed and amount of lost time is fractional. Time yourself reading a new paragraph of all capitalized text and see if you can read four words per second.

  • Luke McElroy says:

    I love it Jeff! Thanks for posting this. However I want to propose another whole thought… I want to not capitalize anything… except any reference to God. In fact when I am at conferences running lyrics and such, I like making the “i’ not capitalized when it’s not talking about God as a subtle reminder that God is the greatest thing and only one who deserves glory.

    We say that the visuals of our space need to reflect God, why not the lyrics too?

    • I’ve been doing the same thing, except I just can’t bring myself to not capitalize the “i’s”. It makes me twitch just to think about it – maybe it’s because I know I’d get phone calls about how I missed it, or maybe it’s that grammar/spelling nazi inside me who just won’t die.

      Anyway, I’m pretty sure I stole the idea from you at last year’s NWLC in Kansas City. So thanks!

  • Dan says:

    Very true here. Thank you for posting this.

    And I agree with Byran, all the “i’s” have to be capital otherwise you lose professionalism on your slides!

  • Travis says:

    How about we look at it this way: usually when we try to be artistic, whether it is on canvas, in clay, in dance or whatever, we tend to lose at least some of the people. We are all creative in some ways, but lyric presentation should be clear and not distracting. Otherwise we lead people down mental rabbit-trails. (“Was that a mistake or did they intend that? What does it mean? Maybe they have a 6 year old typing the lyrics. Where am I going to grab lunch after service…?”)

    How many people complain when proper spelling, capitalization and punctuation are displayed? How many people comment when ONE word is wrong or missing? And for every one person who says something about that mistake, there are a dozen who did not say anything.

    Jeff’s last sentence sums it up: explore other techniques for creativity and help LEAD people into God’s presence.

  • Osborn4 says:

    I’ve thought a lot about lower case i’s. David Crowder band did it.

    But I think it would be more distracting than anything else.

    I have switched away from capitalizing the first word of each line, as the classic hymnal lbs did and now only capitalize the first word of a “sentence” (as well as names for God and I)

  • atterboy says:

    While I agree that sentence case is easy to decipher if words are muddled up like that in the example, I find sentence case to be distracting to the eye, creating a cityscape effect of odd spacing between sentences, while uppercase neat and structured.

    Media is there obviously to help people be more active in worship, but I’d think our eyes are naturally curious to shapes and negative space and sentence case creates exactly that – a subconscious distraction – whereas uppercase, you’re simply reading a word fitting perfectly between the sentence above an below

  • Don Garberg says:

    Reading through both jumbled paragraphs above, I didn’t notice any difference at all between all caps and regular type. Maybe if the words are jumbled, as in the example, it would aid some people to read faster. But since that isn’t what we do, and because not everyone is slowed down by all caps, I don’t think it makes much difference at all to most people. But I am intrigued enough now to do some testing, trying both all caps and regular in the same service, and then do a little polling. Thknas for the inretsenitg aitrlce.

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