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all caps email results in firing
September 2, 2009 11:01 AM   Subscribe

email etiquette: ALL CAPS CAN GET YOU FIRED.

Vicki Walker of Auckland is raking in the law suit moneys after being fired for creating "disharmony in the workplace by using block capitals, bold typeface and red text in her emails".
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posted by tamarack (124 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great, she's winning all sorts of damages. Now everyone will try to get fired this way.

Dismissal for ALL CAPS typing isn't just justifiable dismissal, it should be mandatory. And you should have your computer taken away. Or at least be automatically added to my spam filter.
posted by rokusan at 11:03 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hopefully next on the chopping block: The secretary who announces the pizza party by attaching a clip-art filled PowerPoint slide to an email with an empty subject line.
posted by DU at 11:04 AM on September 2, 2009 [29 favorites]


I support mandatory sentencing.
posted by LordSludge at 11:05 AM on September 2, 2009


So will I be fired on October 22?
posted by cimbrog at 11:06 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I am a single woman with a mortgage, and I had to re-mortgage my home and borrow money from my sister to make it through"

lol
posted by GavinR at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're lucky I don't fire you for writing "moneys," tamarack.
posted by Mister_A at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009


Does Comic Sans count as harassment?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [13 favorites]


Because it's supposed to be "money's."
posted by Mister_A at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I AM A SINGLE WOMAN WITH A MORTGAGE, AND I HAD TO RE-MORTGAGE MY HOME AND BORROW MONEY FROM MY SISTER TO MAKE IT THROUGH," she said. "THEY NEARLY RUINED MY LIFE!!!!!!!!"
posted by burnmp3s at 11:08 AM on September 2, 2009 [51 favorites]


The employer probably thought $17,000 was a good price to pay to get rid of someone who is cancerous to moral.
posted by kanemano at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do I get the feeling that she's just a bad employee in general, and her boss was looking for an excuse, and chose poorly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


OK so it seems as if her employer had no email policy, she received no warnings & they only used one email as evidence. If true then they are idiots.

However, all caps, no caps, lack of paragraphs, use of comic sans & the phrase 'going forward' are, if repeated following a warning, all sacking offences. Where 'sacking' means 'termination of employment and then being thrown off the top of the building with the remaining employees jumping up and down on the remains before they are scooped up and used as mulch'.
posted by i_cola at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


...someone who is cancerous to moral.

Don't call her immoral, or she'll sue you too.
posted by JeffK at 11:12 AM on September 2, 2009


"To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist."

This knucklehead should've been fired if only for using "below" as a modifier before the noun.
posted by dhammond at 11:13 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


EVEN MY 9-YEAR OLD KNOWS THAT ALL CAPS IS CONFRONTATIONAL, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!!!!!
posted by cowpattybingo at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2009


Death to officious intra-office communications!
posted by Mister_A at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2009


Abiezer said it best.
posted by enn at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2009


....In her defense, though --

Okay, y'all, I've been an admin for nearly 20 years now. And sometimes, you need to do this kind of crap to get people's attention. No matter how many plainly-worded emails you send explaining that all timesheets must be at your office on Friday by 2 pm in order for them to be processed, and that if people do not send in their timesheets by then they will not be paid that week, there always are going to be people who call you asking about their paycheck on Monday, and when you say you didn't get their timesheet in time, they will whine "but I didn't knoooooooow that I was supposed to do that! No one tooooooooold me!" And even when you email them a copy of the original email you sent out, they will whine that "I didn't seeeeeeeee that part!"

The likelihood of that kind of idiocy happening decreases if you use some boldface type and all-caps in your emails. Sad, but true.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on September 2, 2009 [28 favorites]


If you read the article, it sounds like it in the cited email she was not being rude at all, just trying to emphasize the important information:

But Walker said they talked about a number of emails she had sent, yet used only one in evidence. The email, which advises her team how to fill out staff claim forms, specifies a time and date highlighted in bold red, and a sentence written in capitals and highlighted in bold blue. It reads: "To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist."


Maybe it's very slightly over-the-top, but if every business email I received achieved that level of clarity, I would be very happy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sounds like this lady's getting a serious crockety bloat.
posted by The White Hat at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Am I the only person who's kinda glad she won?

Why do I get the feeling that she's just a bad employee in general, and her boss was looking for an excuse, and chose poorly.

You're undoubtedly right, and this is the kind of thing that happens when you have an environment in which employees never know what's going on. Was she having regular check-ins with her supervisor in addition to a thorough, two-way annual review? Did she have annual performance and development goals? Was the company helping her take advantage of training and job development opportunities? I sort of doubt it.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Walker was awarded nearly $6000 in lost wages for the 13 weeks between leaving ProCare and finding a new job, but she says she didn't find fulltime work until October 2008 1989.

Walker was also awarded $11,500 for any harm caused through her dismissal the cost of a time machine, and a year's subscription to AOL
.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Does Comic Sans count as harassment?

Textual Harassment.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:21 AM on September 2, 2009 [37 favorites]


OK so it seems as if her employer had no email policy, she received no warnings & they only used one email as evidence. If true then they are idiots.

Maybe she punctuated her style by using Comic Sans.

In which case, completely justified.
posted by zennie at 11:21 AM on September 2, 2009


It seems like she might have the potential to become the next "McDonald's coffee lady." In that, people who feel no need to consider the actual facts of the case are going to be going off on her for the next twenty years.

I am not familiar with New Zealand law, but writing an entirely business-like email that happens to contain capital letters and emphasis is a ridiculous reason to fire someone in any country. Maybe she did other things wrong, but if so, why would they give such an absurdly flimsy reason?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you read the article, it sounds like it in the cited email she was not being rude at all, just trying to emphasize the important information

Don't try to obscure the issue with facts, drjimmy11.
posted by lekvar at 11:23 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Objection! Your Honor, the facts have no relevance in this case!
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2009


i_cola: OK so it seems as if her employer had no email policy, she received no warnings & they only used one email as evidence. If true then they are idiots.

Not that I at all support such laws/policies, but in most states, you work "at will", which means (lacking an actual contract) they can fire you for literally nothing. Typing in all caps? Bye. New haircut? See ya. Bumper sticker for the "wrong" political* party? "We no longer require your services".

They still can't fire you for a number of protected categories (race, gender, to some degree age, etc) - For which reason, most employers refuse to give any explanation at all for why they let you go - But make no mistake, you stay employed only as long as your employer wants you there.

* Yes, this one has gone to court on several occasions, with the employer nearly always winning
posted by pla at 11:25 AM on September 2, 2009


No matter how many plainly-worded emails you send explaining that all timesheets must be at your office on Friday by 2 pm in order for them to be processed, and that if people do not send in their timesheets by then they will not be paid that week...

Yes, stupid policies are also to blame.

And that reminds me: As a contractor, I have to fill out two timesheets. One for my contracting agency, one for the place I actually work at. The agency requires that I have my timesheet to them by Tuesday morning, which means I have to put it in the mail on Friday morning. The second place never tells me about charge number changes until Friday afternoon, so I often have to reprint my timesheet and have it re-Hancocked by my boss.
posted by DU at 11:27 AM on September 2, 2009


Kidding aside, it's ludicrous to dismiss someone for something like this.
posted by Mister_A at 11:30 AM on September 2, 2009


Furthermore, even if the company did have some kind of "NO CAPS!!!!1" email policy on the books, I still wouldn't buy that that was why they fired her.

Policies like that are NEVER enforced equally; they're always used as excuses to get rid of those who are disliked for whatever reason. In the same way police can't and won't stop everyone who goes 1mph over the limit, companies can't fire everyone who violates goofy little policies. So the young black guy with nice car gets stopped for going "55 in a 54," and the lady who the bosses want gone because they want to hire someone younger and better-looking (or whatever) gets fired for using all caps.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:31 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The likelihood of that kind of idiocy happening decreases if you use some boldface type and all-caps in your emails. Sad, but true.

I also work in Admin, and this is definitely true. The email this woman was fired over was capitalized for emphasis and color coded for clarity. It wasn't a flaming shout fest, it was instructions for filling out a form. I only wish she'd received more money.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:32 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


posted by R_Nebblesworth Objection! Your Honor, the facts have no relevance in this case!

Don't look at the facts, look at the meaning of the facts. And in this case, the facts don't matter, because the facts have no meaning!
posted by mattdidthat at 11:32 AM on September 2, 2009


The last person at my office to get the ax wrote all his emails in bold purple Comic Sans. Coincidence...or PROVIDENCE?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:38 AM on September 2, 2009


It seems like she might have the potential to become the next "McDonald's coffee lady."

This is a really bad example to use when you're talking about frivolous lawsuits. McDonald's served its coffee 20-30 °C hotter than was safe or drinkable; the "McDonald's coffee lady" suffered third-degree burns and ended up getting skin grafts.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


She had also acted provocatively in seeking to view complaints laid against her by colleagues.

Hmmmm...
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2009


Authority member Alastair Dumbleton said Ms Walker received no warnings, and while she had contributed to disharmony in the workplace it was not to the extent that dismissal was fair or reasonable.

She must have really struck a chord with some folk, then.
sorry.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:50 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


She had also acted provocatively in seeking to view complaints laid against her by colleagues.

Okay, that's a little weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, and the infamous zillion-dollar verdict in the McDonald's case was reduced substantially on appeal.
posted by Mister_A at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2009


Am I the only person who's kinda glad she won?

No. But this is SnarkFilter, so nobody else is going to admit it.
posted by effbot at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2009


Well, at first I was going to mention that this lady wouldn't have been able to file her little suit if only my idea of making all-caps email writing a universal capital crime had come to fruition, but then I looked at the example, and that's nothing--nothing. (My own boss went through a phase where he used Forte in all his emails; we don't speak of it now.) And I found this little tidbit disturbing:
She had also acted provocatively in seeking to view complaints laid against her by colleagues.
Sounds like a freaking star chamber to me. Anyway, I grant her my mercy.

On the other hand, MeFites who overuse the small tag will still be up against the wall, come the revolution.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2009


Has there ever been an all-caps mefi thread? Sometimes the threads here feel like all-caps threads, just without the all-caps and with many more dependent clauses.
posted by blucevalo at 11:51 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure, haltingproblemsolved, but I think you might have misunderstood drjimmy's point. He was saying that this woman will become another go-to example for the people who talk a lot about frivolous lawsuits, but really don't know much about lawsuits.

So it seems, at least in McDonald's Lady's case, that you and he would be in agreement.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:52 AM on September 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


DO YOU THINK I CAN GET $17,000 IF I START WRITING ALL MY EMAILS IN CAPS? WHAT ABOUT BLINKY? $28,000?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

thank you mister_A
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:54 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR DISMISSAL
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2009 [17 favorites]


Mister_A : Kidding aside, it's ludicrous to dismiss someone for something like this.

Oh, I agree. But there are dark times in my soul where I can completely understand where the management was coming from. It usually is when someone who reports to me gets pissed off about something and unthinkingly sends out a message to a global mailing list that is poorly spell-checked, tonally inappropriate, makes use of chat-speak lingo, ALL-CAP SENTENCES, and excessive punctuation!!!

And after I get done explaining to my bosses boss that we do, in fact, understand that lots of VPs are on these global lists and that interdepartmental communications should at least make an attempt towards professionalism, that I imagine an empty chair where that employee sits and for just a brief moment, I feel better.

Then we get to do employee coaching. Yay for that. But at least no one loses their job outside the confines of my mind.
posted by quin at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I feel for her.

Recently, I received a phone call from a user who had a problem, far past the deadline we had announced in numerous ways. He also received an email, specifically for him, requesting that he take action, at least two months in advance. At some point in the conversation, I asked if he had gotten the notices and emails.

"Well, I only got the one email," he says to me. I think I still have bite marks in my tongue from holding back the question, Precisely how many emails would it have taken for you to do something about it? Perhaps I could have hand-delivered a scroll with a mint taped to it?

I have considered what it would take to build an application such that, when an announcement goes out, at the end, users would have to take a short comprehension quiz to verify that they have read it and understood, or they could click the button that says, "I am not going to read this and am completely responsible for any problems caused by that." As users fill out the forms, I could have a console pull up for each announcement displaying which users haven't bothered and how much comprehension the rest have.

Whether it has to do with IT or not, sometimes I think that, if more policy decisions should came with this kind of feedback mechanism, we'd have fewer workplace issues. It would make a barrier to entry for sending out random bits of policy and you'd eliminate the excuses.
posted by adipocere at 11:58 AM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


EVERY YEAR WE GET TOGETHER AND MAKE SALMON FOR TOAST

EVERY YEAR WE GET A CROCKETY BLOAT

EVERY YEAR WE SEND OUT CONFRONTATIONAL EMAILS

AND EVERY YEAR WE GET $17,000 IN COMPENSATION FOR UNFAIR DISMISSAL!!!!!!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:59 AM on September 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Whoops, I totally failed to read past the first sentence of drjimmy11's comment. Guess I'm next in line to be fired...
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This isn't the whole story, eg why wasn't she reinstated? Which is the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal in NZ. My guess this is a "win" for the company, and although they're making no comment, they'll be back patting and glass clinking.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:05 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a little bit confused. It seems like the only email they used as evidence wasn't all that confrontational, but did include ALL CAPS, bold, red text, etc. However, I imagine that there probably were some confrontational emails sent. Sure, there are ways to modify your text to make it more confrontational, but you can also be aggressive and fighty without caps lock.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:05 PM on September 2, 2009


She had also acted provocatively in seeking to view complaints laid against her by colleagues.

I take this to mean that she was told there had been "complaints" about her and she asked what they were. Definitely some star chamber crap going on here. I've been a victim of this type of shenanigans before (management was trying to weed out/intimidate the employees who predated them) - when I insisted to at least know what the complaints were, it turned out that there weren't actually any specific complaints at all.

I love how so many keep insisting that she must have been a bad employee to get the boot like that, but what I see is a middle aged person in a middle admin position caught up in either housecleaning or conflict with a supervisor. One email and some vague accusations got them a big bill, and I salute her for standing up for herself.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:06 PM on September 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


posted by adipocere Whether it has to do with IT or not, sometimes I think that, if more policy decisions should came with this kind of feedback mechanism, we'd have fewer workplace issues. It would make a barrier to entry for sending out random bits of policy and you'd eliminate the excuses.

Van Halen solved a similar problem with brown M&Ms.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:06 PM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


"you can also be aggressive and fighty without caps lock"

No you fucking can't.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 12:16 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I take this to mean that she was told there had been "complaints" about her and she asked what they were. Definitely some star chamber crap going on here.

Are NZ employment laws really that strict that you can only terminate someone for cause? How common are these sorts of lawsuits? It seems that NZ$17,000 might be considered an acceptable price to pay if you want to get rid of an employee that you just don't want to have around.
posted by deanc at 12:16 PM on September 2, 2009


I've had to terminate people (their employment only) on occasion, and it stinks. Even when it's for non-performance, it still stinks. Anyway, my point is that, after first letting the employee know about the specific areas where his or her performance was not up to par (I provided examples too), I had to document all instances of shoddy performance, failure to meet deadlines, submission of incomplete assignments, and so on for more than a month before my supervisor would let me dismiss the employee in question. It was a pain in the ass, but I have come to see the wisdom of using this process. For one thing, it would be difficult to win a judgment against our company with the pile of evidence I amassed; but more importantly, it gave the employee in question a fighting chance to keep his or her job.
posted by Mister_A at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we fire people who forward e-mails that are easily proved false by a trip to snopes.com?

Please?
posted by Lucinda at 12:23 PM on September 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


In a meeting, discussing an email argument we were having with a senior person in a related but separate organisation, I said to my team "but he uses Comic Sans, so he has no credibility".

They looked at me as if I were mad.
posted by athenian at 12:24 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not that I at all support such laws/policies, but in most states, you work "at will", which means (lacking an actual contract) they can fire you for literally nothing.

This is true in the union of states you're probably thinking of, but I get the impression it's not the norm in developed countries generally (and apparently not in New Zealand). I'm thinking the American rule might tie into a general ethos that freedom means the freedom to spend the money you have the way you want -- it's a view that seems to come up in many of our policies.
posted by jhc at 12:31 PM on September 2, 2009


This runs a bit under $12,000 USD. I'd imagine that's a rather normal wage for someone in accounting, perhaps a bit over. Certainly not the $4,000 USD she got as actual wage losses, the additional harm moves things into a more reasonable amount. Doesn't address the cost of underemployment, refinancing, or lost seniority though.

If this is "raking in the law suit moneys", I'd hate to see what real punitive damages would be called. There are very reasonable procedures for this sort of thing. If she's been warned about it verbally in the past, a written warning is in order. One email provided as evidence with no paper trail of warnings simply isn't enough, regardless of whether she was a model employee or the most annoying person in the workplace.

Even here in "at will employment" territory, a problem of email etiquette would get a written warning long before termination. At the very least, provide a return email addressing the issue. Completely ridiculous.
posted by Saydur at 12:32 PM on September 2, 2009


How about capital punishment (pun intended!) for those who needlessly hit the reply all key?
posted by effluvia at 12:39 PM on September 2, 2009


This all comes from allowing Outlook as an email client.

In my experience the only people who insist upon using "stationary" or specific fonts or colored text or "cute" images are the people using Outlook.

I don't mind a rich text or HTML formatted email, myself, and will happily do so if allowed to use my email client of choice, but when I am forced to use Outlook for email I send everything as plain text, so that I can imagine myself as the lone voice of formatting sanity in the mad flow of corporate email hell.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:49 PM on September 2, 2009


I just had to email my grandma and make sure she still has a job.

She does.
posted by chillmost at 12:52 PM on September 2, 2009


Are NZ employment laws really that strict that you can only terminate someone for cause? How common are these sorts of lawsuits? It seems that NZ$17,000 might be considered an acceptable price to pay if you want to get rid of an employee that you just don't want to have around.


Not trying to snark, but it's more that the US laws that you are used to are very heavily weighted in the employer's favour. (NZ laws look incredibly deregulated next to Germany's, say).

So yes, in NZ you can only terminate someone for cause. Additionally, you usually you need to follow a very strict process in how you do it: formal verbal warning, followed by formal written warning, then dismissal (and you have to give the employee a reasonable opportunity to improve their performance in between the warnings). (Obviously, this doesn't apply in extreme situations, like theft or workplace violence; but for something like this, they certainly didn't follow the appropriate procedure).

Oh, and of course you can make someone redundant, but that's a different situation completely (some details here).

Personal opinion: I'm sure there's more to it than this one email, because surely any employer would just tell her off and ask her to do things better in the future. But the employer was a long long way from following labour law, so it's no surprise she won.

On preview: saydur mentioned punitive damages: as far as I know, we don't get those to anywhere near the same extent in NZ - it's more compensation and that's it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:54 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are NZ employment laws really that strict that you can only terminate someone for cause?

Oh how hilarious. I had major culture shock when I discovered that in the US, employment laws are so weak you can be fired for no reason.

Civilisation guys, you might like to try some.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [19 favorites]


She had to use all caps because she's been SILENCED ALL HER LIFE.
posted by notashroom at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


i_am_joe's_spleen: Oh how hilarious. I had major culture shock when I discovered that in the US, employment laws are so weak you can be fired for no reason.

Civilisation guys, you might like to try some.


Ludicrous. If we had to have reasons for firing somebody, we'd need to take more time to hire the right person in the first place. By allowing termination without cause, we can be lazy on both ends.

Besides, if we spent time looking for qualified, decent people, it might cut into our two weeks of vacation time a year. Easy for you to urge us to be civilized during your six to eight weeks of so-called "holiday." How will you ever learn how to enjoy vacation if you have so much of it?
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2009 [14 favorites]


I am so glad this woman won. I lost my last job for even more ridiculous reasons. Seriously, you wouldn't believe me if I told you the whole story, but I was dismissed as a scapegoat for my bosses' incompetence, and they put a lot of effort into rigging a trap for me so they would have something to give to HR.

I thought about suing, but I am just not the litigious sort, and I know they were counting on that.

I'm glad she was able to find a new job. I'm still unemployed and penniless a year later, but I still thank the cosmic powers-that-be daily that I never have to return to that toxic hell-hole or see any of those disgusting assholes ever again.
posted by trip and a half at 1:21 PM on September 2, 2009


I can't be the only person wishing some companies I worked for had that policy.... at one place we had an egregiously bullying VP who loved ye all caps. It would have given me seat-moistening pleasure to have seen him fired for it.
posted by Billegible at 1:22 PM on September 2, 2009


Civilisation guys, you might like to try some.

Actually, I'd rather opt out. Can I still do that, or do I have to have a reason, now?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2009


DO YOU THINK I CAN GET $17,000 IF I START WRITING ALL MY EMAILS IN CAPS? WHAT ABOUT BLINKY? $28,000?

NO WAY MAN! BLINKY WON'T HACK IT! IF YOU WANT TO GET MORE THAN $20,000 YOU'VE GOT TO WRITE EMAILS IN CLYDE!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:26 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now Can We Get Around To Doing Something About The People Who Capitalize Every Single Word Of Every Paragraph Of Every Piece Of Written Communication That They Pen?
posted by pyrex at 1:42 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Meh. Typing in all caps is the etiquette equivalent of shouting at someone; it just strongly suggests the person is lacking in social skills (which, these days, includes the ability to communicate effectively through the written word.)

On the other hand, Cold Mountain would have been much better if it were in all caps.
posted by davejay at 1:44 PM on September 2, 2009


Now Can We Get Around To Doing Something About The People Who Capitalize Every Single Word Of Every Paragraph Of Every Piece Of Written Communication That They Pen?

They're actually in line behind ThE pEoPlE wHo Do ThIs WhEn ThEy TyPe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on September 2, 2009


Wow, HR: UR DOIN IT RONG

ha ha I work for myself so can never be fired!!!1!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:48 PM on September 2, 2009


*warm feeling*

Good thread, people. Good thread. Keep it going.
posted by grubi at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2009


And then fire the people who......feel the need.....for ├╝berellipses..........and loads of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!exclamation points lol!!!!!!!!??????????????

FIRE THEM NAO
posted by grubi at 1:53 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


...had caused disharmony in the workplace by using block capitals, bold typeface and red text in her emails.

This used to happen a lot at my (now ex-) workplace and I speak from experience when I say that the grunts really don't like getting emails in bright red gigantic all caps unless it's announcing free cake. What you're saying is that "I don't trust you to pay attention anything unless it's punching you in the eyes."
posted by monkeymike at 1:55 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this the correct place to tell you all about ALL CAPS TUESDAY?

On Tuesday, my extended circle of friends writes only in caps on Tuesdays.

There's even a facebook group.
posted by festivemanb at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Last 'real' job I had, I had to sign a "work at will" agreement. And everyone's copious job description included this catchall: "...and whatever other tasks that may be assigned to you," meaning your 'job' was anything and everything. So before you even started the gig, you were well aware that you could be fired for any reason or no reason at all (save of course the protected bias ones).
posted by bonefish at 2:03 PM on September 2, 2009


First they came for the people who wrote in All Caps, but I said nothing for I did not write in All Caps.

Then they came for the people who wrote using blinkies, but I said nothing, for I did not use blinkies.

So when they came for the people who wrote in LOLCat Pidgin, there was no one left to say anything for me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:08 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can has liburty or I can has def?
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm not saying that if I had a company that I would fire an admin who had a habit of writing emails in different colors and all caps, but I'm pretty sure I would select for and hire the sort of employees who would support an overall workplace culture of text-only e-mails, proper grammar, and appropriate use of capitalization.
posted by deanc at 2:21 PM on September 2, 2009


The story is indicative of the court system in a country that values its workers. This thread is indicative of a country that doesn't value its workers.

Awesome responses, everybody! YEAH...lets burn her!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:22 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


...for all that is hilarious, Joey Michaels and fourcheesemac, thanks be to ye for the well-timed awesome.
posted by tamarack at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


the grunts really don't like getting emails in bright red gigantic all caps

Yes. When it's not anger, it's the equivalent of speaking to a foreigner...

IN. VERY. SLOW. LOUD. ENGLISH. AS. IF. THAT. HELPS.

Insulting to the nines.
posted by rokusan at 2:48 PM on September 2, 2009


Are you sure this thread isn't indicative of the presence of a coterie of smart-ass web nerds that like to make jokes about capital punishment for use of certain reviled fonts and so forth? Because I think that's what it is.
posted by Mister_A at 2:50 PM on September 2, 2009


This thread is indicative of a country that doesn't value its workers.

In a rare moment of seriousness: It's an indefensibly bad bit of e-mail etiquette... and it's a stupid reason to fire someone. Both. At the same time.

Rather than dismissal, such people should be sent to some painful E-Mail in the Workplace Training Seminar. That'd fix 'em.
posted by rokusan at 2:51 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's a bit harsh, rokusan. Can't we just disembowel her instead?
posted by Mister_A at 2:52 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


grunts really don't like

I have a boss that likes to describe workers as grunts. Not very popular, or effective.
posted by Talanvor at 3:08 PM on September 2, 2009


but I'm pretty sure I would select for and hire the sort of employees who would support an overall workplace culture of text-only e-mails, proper grammar, and appropriate use of capitalization.

Of course, but if you read the article, you find:

'The email, which advises her team how to fill out staff claim forms, specifies a time and date highlighted in bold red, and a sentence written in capitals and highlighted in bold blue. It reads: "To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist."'

Here's the rub - when you send out emails that are heavy on details and instructions, capitalization, bolding and colors really do help in illustrating the procedure. If font changes and colors didn't help people understand content, then the internet would be a monochrome land. All of this Hurf Durf Capitalization stuff is ignoring the fact that she used capitals and colors in a useful and by my book correct manner. Maybe she should have put it in a Powerpoint, but really, this is a baloney issue.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, she was not using the standard professional white background for her emails either.
posted by Big_B at 3:38 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


CAPS LOCK.
Are you ready to unleash the fury?
posted by Ratio at 3:43 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about capital punishment (pun intended!) for those who needlessly hit the reply all key?

I'd be quite happy with a policy that required remedial email etiquette seminar participation for all employees that use the reply-all, intentionally OR unintentionally, when it's not required.

My current place of employment has hundreds of folks working here. Invariably, when an all-site email announcement goes out, one jackass has to reply to everyone with some stupid question, observation or joke about the email. As if the hundreds of us need to process through his brain dead contribution to every company-wide announcement.

It's people like this that cause unrest.
posted by darkstar at 3:56 PM on September 2, 2009


'The email, which advises her team how to fill out staff claim forms, specifies a time and date highlighted in bold red, and a sentence written in capitals and highlighted in bold blue. It reads: "To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist."'

Fire her for using a preposition as an adjective, please.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:09 PM on September 2, 2009


All caps doesn't bug nearly as much as morons who don't read for content, and then send a reply asking questions to which I've already provided answers.

I also hate it when I ask questions to get specific information and I get a reply with an answer to only one.

I also despise brusque e-mails; if you don't have time to be polite, then wait until you get home to reply instead of sending it from your fucking iPhone.
posted by bwg at 4:09 PM on September 2, 2009


Yeah. "Sent from my iPhone" is quickly becoming Internet slang for "Written by a blowhard."
posted by roll truck roll at 4:20 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


All caps are required sometimes.

We had a form that everyone needed to fill out on our corporate intranet. There was a slight change to the login credentials you needed to use to access the form. Every single day we would get multiple support requests from people saying they couldn't login to fill out the form. Calls went like this -

Employee - "I'm trying to login but it says my username or password is wrong"
Support - "Did you follow the instructions in the email?"
Employee - "Of course. It doesn't work."
Support - "Did you use the special username/password format in the instructions?"
Employee - "Special format.......?"
Support - "Please read the email and follow the instructions"

When we tried sending notifications like this with the important part in all caps and red, support issues went way down. If you want to know why things like this are actually needed, try listening in on some IT support calls.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:42 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh really, caps lock lady? You're single? Really? I wouldn't ever have guessed.
posted by clockzero at 4:43 PM on September 2, 2009


-----------------
Sent from my iphone
used to be
Sent from my Treo
i'm too stupid to figure out
the signature settings
but even if I figured that out
it would have ascii art of a rose
and/or a freeform poem
posted by benzenedream at 4:44 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you can't figure
out how to use e-mail then
write letters, moron
posted by bwg at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2009


Not my best haiku, I'll admit.
posted by bwg at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2009


Let's try again:

ALL CAPS, REALLY? WHY?
You could get fired for that now
take it down a notch
posted by bwg at 4:50 PM on September 2, 2009


ASCII ART FULL MOON
RISING OVER THE BLOOD RED
ROSE: CAPITAL O
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Poor lady. The thing is, nobody actually reads the entire text of all-staff emails, so using all caps + red text was probably a good choice so that staff actually paid attention to those points.
posted by citron at 5:04 PM on September 2, 2009


I enforce a pretty strict plain-text only policy at most businesses I provide IT services to. And by enforce, I mean one day the SMTP server mysteriously starts only sending along the plain text part.
posted by floam at 5:44 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


1) We need to have fewer nuanced explanations of the difficulties inherent in corporate email, and more anti-caps-lock snark. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

2) LOLCAPSLOCKAMIRITE
posted by Bokononist at 6:00 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where are those death panels when you really need them?
posted by a_day_late at 6:28 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMG you guys stop not valuing your workers and commence with doing its opposite.
posted by Mister_A at 6:42 PM on September 2, 2009


We need to have fewer nuanced explanations of the difficulties inherent in corporate email

Sez you. I won't rest until I've thrown everyone who has unironically used the phrase "thrown under the bus" under a bus.
posted by Spatch at 6:54 PM on September 2, 2009


FUCK YEAH CAPSLOCK
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:23 PM on September 2, 2009


She should get a job with my company. We had a new employee come on during the last year who only ever sends out email in italic all-caps pink Comic Sans (with lots of !!!s, natch). Took it as a goofy affectation, and then she got one of the national quarterly awards, which specifically mentioned her "good communication skills." Been looking for a new job since.
posted by jtron at 12:05 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


When we tried sending notifications like this with the important part in all caps and red, support issues went way down. If you want to know why things like this are actually needed, try listening in on some IT support calls.


A few people have said this, I find it quite surprising. Personally I find emails in multi colours and caps to be harder to read. But I guess from what everyone is saying, that's just me.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:09 AM on September 3, 2009


Well I personally send out "if x isn't done this way y will happen" emails with the important parts (i.e. check delivery to mailboxes and data is not recoverable) in bold. That way anyone can skim it if need be and pick up the gist of it.

My old boss used to love it because I could include a page of background and justification for things and he could still understand the key parts for him to zoom through and if something came up and he needed to know he'd know enough.

I'd like to think my emails are more intuitive this way.
posted by Talez at 12:31 AM on September 3, 2009


I am not familiar with New Zealand law, but writing an entirely business-like email that happens to contain capital letters and emphasis is a ridiculous reason to fire someone in any country. Maybe she did other things wrong, but if so, why would they give such an absurdly flimsy reason?

Most of the "OH NOES I GOT SUED FOR SACKING USELESS STAFF" stories in New Zealand are the result of employers who have neglected to familiarise themselves with even the most basic aspects of the law. I've had a few contracts offered to me that appeared to have been written by someone labouring under the misapprension it was the United States or 19th century England, not NZ, with all sorts of ludicrous clauses that could have netted me a healthy sum from a lawsuit over them.

And the courts have pretty much held that, except for gross misconduct like sexual harrasment, assaulting workmates, fraud, and the like, you need to have given clear written warning of whatever the problem is, after meetings to discuss them, where the employee has the right to support (union, lawyer, whatever). It's also generally frowned upon not to have at least made an effort to offer relevant trainingto help resolve the problem.

Are NZ employment laws really that strict that you can only terminate someone for cause?

Yes.

Brace yourself. I know this may seem shocking, but there are countries where your livelihood, the roof over your head, the food you put on the table for your family are not actually at the whim of someone who decides she doesn't like your face one morning and thinks it would be amusing to ruin your life.

You actually have to be bad at your job to get fired! Amazing!
posted by rodgerd at 1:25 AM on September 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


"But Mr Luna says this is 'nonsense' - pointing to new research that has found capitals and lower-case letters make no real difference. Instead, the caps-lock key has become a tool for writers.
'It's a great aid to articulating a message, really,' he says." (Why do CAPITAL LETTERS so annoy us?, BBC News)
posted by blucevalo at 4:52 AM on September 3, 2009


I've had to terminate people (their employment only) on occasion

Thanks for the clarification, Mister_A
posted by idiomatika at 5:19 AM on September 3, 2009


Next: Top-posting gets you fired.
posted by joeclark at 6:50 AM on September 3, 2009


The fact that some commenters here find that non-caps email messages are not sufficient to get people to understand and follow the changes contained in the email suggests that EMAIL IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO COMMUNICATE THOSE CHANGES. Getting more compliance by using all caps suggests that by being rude, more people pay attention. There could be a downside to this approach.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2009


EMAIL IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO COMMUNICATE THOSE CHANGES

In a previous workplace I was accused of using email too much 'why didn't you just come in to my office and ask/tell me?' type thing. I then pointed out that there had been previous occasions in said workplace where people would lie and say 'you didn't come in to my office and ask/tell me that' and claim the conversation never took place. But if I put it in an email, I at least had a record I had sent it (and if you put a reader receipt on it, you could prove they at least opened the email).
Short answer - if people did what they were meant to do, didn't duck and weave, and read the emails that were sent to them once face to face conversation had failed THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR ALL CAPS EMAILS!!
posted by Megami at 1:10 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


ALL CAPS does not even register on my radar anymore as offensive.

Animated MS Office GIFs of walking, smiling turd icons on a pink theme with frilly borders are the new all-caps.
posted by benzenedream at 1:27 PM on September 3, 2009


if people did what they were meant to do, didn't duck and weave, and read the emails that were sent to them once face to face conversation had failed THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR ALL CAPS EMAILS!!

Absolutely. If you find yourself needing to keep a paper trail in order to cover your ass, then it's time to find a new job.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:56 PM on September 3, 2009


Wow.

The universal reaction from everyone in NZ I've seen talk about this case is - "oh my god, what a stupid reason. What a load of crap"

In fact most people think the compensation she received was too little. Her employer didn't act in good-faith at all.
posted by sycophant at 3:18 AM on September 4, 2009


The universal reaction from everyone in NZ I've seen talk about this case is - "oh my god, what a stupid reason. What a load of crap"

Sure, because that's how it's being reported locally. Reintroduction of the ECA to be tabled with support from the National Party Herald in 3... 2... 1...
posted by rodgerd at 12:36 PM on September 4, 2009


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