The story about the U.S. Navy you probably missed

It’s all about typography

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Technical difficulties derailed this morning’s Tease the Day, but the following paragraphs would have opened the post, had we published it earlier. Enjoy.

Rare is the morning that a newspaper’s front section sparks laughter from its readers. Usually, there’s too much death, destruction, violence and corruption for any levity. The Globe and Mail accomplished the feat this morning, with an item about—what else?—typography, tucked away on its 19th page. “THE U.S. NAVY WILL NO LONGER COMMUNICATE EXCLUSIVELY IN CAPITAL LETTERS,” went the lede. “YOUNG SAILORS ACCUSTOMED TO TEXTING SEE ALL-CAPS ORDERS AS A FORM OF SHOUTING!

The entire story ran, hilariously, in upper case (as it did on the Wall Street Journal‘s front page). Apparently, the navy south of the border wants its communications to be “more readable and less rude.” An officer, quoted anonymously, said the decision “was made to save money and gain efficiencies,” but “if an ancillary benefit is that sailors reading message traffic no longer feel they’re being screamed at … that’s a good thing.” The story claims that “old bulls” still prefer the caps, and the navy denied it was “going soft”.

Are we all being punked?

Apparently not. The new communications system, dubbed C2OIX, could save $15 million a year when it’s fully implemented. It’ll take a couple of years for upper-case messages to die off, but the navy assures us the abrasive communication is being phased out. “By 2015, C2OIX will seamlessly interface with or absorb the existing legacy messaging capabilities and allow mixed case messages to be delivered to all messaging systems.”

Did you fight through that jargon on your first attempt? Now that capital letters have been tamed, maybe the navy should give writing in simple English a try. Baby steps.




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The story about the U.S. Navy you probably missed

  1. We’ll have to change punctuation as well. Make it more understandable.

    “By 2015 C2OIX will seamlessly interface with or absorb the existing
    legacy messaging capabilities….and allow mixed case messages to be
    delivered to all messaging systems.”

    See?

  2. That last sentence implies that there are too many MBAs and not enough sailors in the Navy, IMO. Why is it that we are taught to write as clearly and concisely as possible in high school and university, and then taught to scribble largely unintelligible jargon in grad school? Maybe Conrad Black can explain it to me.

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