I’ve always been aesthetically drawn to the singular lowercase “i,” so without much justification, I shut off the settings on my iPhone that forced the subjects of my sentences to stand tall as capitals. It was visually pleasing. Casual. An easy way of distancing myself from my adolescent elitism about “proper” grammar.
But my motivations weren’t so simple. As I texted regularly without capitalization, I noticed myself codeswitching more frequently than I anticipated—both in expected ways, like communications with my employers, but also in conversations with close friends. Our tone dictated my approach to the structure of my language as well as its meaning, and more serious conversations warranted more conventionality. My decision to adjust my phone’s settings probably wasn’t as deeply rooted in aesthetics as I thought.
In an attempt to be more mindful, I’ve developed more reasoning for my praxis:
1. Lowercase letters—but lowercase “i”s specifically—change the tenor of written language as I read it, breaks apart the structures of grammar in a way that resists linguistic elitism or globalization without compromising clear communication.
2. Along with dropping punctuation from the ends of sentences, I feel a lack of capitalization better mimics the speech patterns we use in face-to-face communication—the way we so very rarely speak with perfect grammar, the way our sentence boundaries bleed into each other the more comfortable we become with the people in our lives. Hard stops—and therefore hard beginnings—therefore seem inauthentic.
3. It’s the best way I’ve found to translate tone into short, informal messages. The people I text most can better negotiate the split between sarcasm and seriousness based on my use of capslock and periods, and even though communication in the digital age has its flaws, this is one of the reasons I’m optimistic about the direction we’re moving in.