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ALL-CAPS MESSAGES ... no more

Jun. 6, 2013 - 07:20PM   |  
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Call it the message read ’round the world.

On May 8, the Navy’s personnel chief issued a policy directive likely unique in the annals of naval messages that came before it — a bulletin that featured lowercase letters.

For sailors who find it hard to get through all-caps messages or think that they READ LIKE YOU’RE BEING SHOUTED AT, your time has come: The Navy is shifting to a new message-routing system that is cheaper and easier to operate and has the side benefit of sending messages that are easier to read.

The ability to mix upper- and lowercase letters and special characters “makes the readability better for the folks that are actually monitoring in a chat room or reading messages off a portal site,” said James McCarty, the naval messaging program manager at Fleet Cyber Command who is overseeing the changes, which oddly were first announced in an all-caps dispatch.

Naval messages — from routine GENADMINs (general administration) and MOVREPs (movement report) all the way up to a Flash OPREP, sent to the nation’s leaders during a crisis — are the tidings of the fleet. Changing that age-old format has prompted plenty of feedback. Younger personnel like it because it’s more readable and is similar to an email. But there are holdouts — especially among the old guard who are accustomed to reading their messages only in uppercase.

“You have a lot of folks that have been around for a long time and are used to uppercase and they just prefer that it stay there because of the standardized look of it,” McCarty said. “But the truth of it is, as we move forward, it’s imminent.”

The Navy and other services have a long history with all-caps messages. Early teletype machines, which the military started using in the 1850s, were made up of only three rows of keys and did not allow for lowercase letters.

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