- President Donald Trump has an unusual writing style that has caught the attention of linguists and writing experts.
- The president has been criticised for his unconventional way of capitalising words that aren’t proper nouns, including “border,” “military,” and “country.”
- There are some interesting theories as to why Trump capitalises words the way he does.
While much of the public’s focus has been on the content of Trump’s tweets, there is a cosmetic aspect that has grabbed the attention of linguists and writers: his unconventional capitalisation of words.
For as long as Trump has been tweeting, he has demonstrated a bizarre habit of capitalising words that are not typically capitalised. He routinely capitalises words like “border,” “country,” “safety,” “security,” and “military,” among others.
Take a look at some examples:
There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
On Wednesday: “There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!”
States and Cities throughout our Country are being cheated and treated so badly by online retailers. Very unfair to traditional tax paying stores!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2018
On Tuesday: “States and Cities throughout our Country are being cheated and treated so badly by online retailers.”
I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
On Monday: “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty.”
And that’s just from this week.
Theories abound for why Trump capitalises words the way he does. One belief, as suggested by CNN’s Chris Cillizza, is that it’s his way of drawing attention to the words in question. Twitter doesn’t allow users to type in bold or italics, so perhaps Trump has found a creative solution.
Alternatively, it could be possible that Trump simply doesn’t know the conventions of English capitalisation, which generally dictate that only proper nouns and the first word of a sentence get capitalised.
“He’s turning things that are not proper nouns into proper nouns, which does give them an importance they don’t really have,” the writing coach Mary Cullen told Business Insider. “Grammatically, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Intentional or not, Trump’s capitalisation habit does fall in line with his knack for branding. In many cases, the words he chooses to capitalise – think “Fake News Media” and “Witch Hunt” – reflect his personal spin on the issues that are most important to him.
“Many of them look like phrases that you could put on a hat or a political button or a bumper sticker,” Roy Peter Clark, a writing teacher with the Poynter Institute, told Business Insider.
Cullen agreed: “It’s something he can easily make a buzzword out of,” she said.” “He’s sort of making it a Thing, with a capital T.”
Trump isn’t alone in his writing style. Believe it or not, Trump’s style of uppercasing seems to be a trademark of speech used by tea-party members, as the writer Jon Lackman observed in a Slate article from 2010. Exactly why is hard to tell, but Lackman noted the style harked back to Colonial America – you may recall the Declaration of Independence mentions“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” among other capitalised words that appear to defy modern convention.
Regardless of Trump’s intent, the degree to which his writing style angers people most likely correlates to where they fall on the political spectrum – much like his affinity for assigning provocative nicknames and his tendency to commit spelling errors. As Clark put it, such moves are unlikely to move the needle for people who have already made up their minds on Trump.
“It appears that all readers seem to bring partisan preferences to the act of reading,” Clark said. “So I would guess that these practices will continue to enrage his opponents and encourage his faithful core of true believers.”
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