A Guide to Lowercase and How to Use it in Typography.

Whether you’re reading a novel, a newspaper, blog or a social media ad, chances are the bulk of the text will be made up of lowercase alphabet letters. Lowercase is the term for the non-capital letters in a font set. While uppercase letters are used for emphasis - in headings, proper nouns, acronyms, and as the first word of sentences - lowercase is used in everyday writing.

 

Lowercase letters are also commonly used informally in text messages and social media posts to convey a more casual and relaxed tone. It’s becoming increasingly common for younger people to drop capitalisation altogether, with many Gen Z turning off the automatic capital letter function on their smartphones.

Grey serif font showing lowercase typography, fading gradually into a black background

What is lowercase in typography?  

 

In typography, the same letters or numerals look different in uppercase and lowercase. While uppercase letters are bold and impactful, lowercase letters are usually smaller and tend to resemble handwritten alphabet letters more closely. Lowercase is easier to read and more aesthetically balanced in longer passages of text.  

 

Uppercase letters are all the same height and sit in the same position on the text line, whereas lowercase letters vary in height, position and proportion. Lowercase alphabet letters like h, t, l and d, have long stems, unlike e, n, s and o, which are smaller and more compact. 

 

A few letters - m and w - are longer, taking up more horizontal space, while others are much shorter, such as l and i. Some letters also have tails - like g, q, p and y - which swoop below the text line. A couple - i and j - even have a distinguishing mark above them, known as a tittle. 

 

The terms upper and lowercase come from the days when printing presses were set manually. The smaller letters - which were more commonly used - were kept by compositors (a person who arranges type for printing) in the lower type case, which was easier to reach. Let’s learn more about the origin of lowercase letters. 

 

 

A brief history of lowercase letters.

 

It might seem strange to us, but there was a time when the written word used all capital letters. Lowercase letters evolved into what we recognise today over several hundred years. 

 

  • Ancient Rome: Roman majuscule - an all-capital script - was widely used by scholars composing Latin texts. 
  • Middle Ages: Uncial and half-uncial script - a more rounded form of writing - developed. This is where the modern lowercase letters b and d acquired their long stems. 
  • 771: King Charlemagne ascended the throne of the Roman Empire. The Carolingian miniscule - a forerunner of the modern lowercase - was introduced during his reign. This was the first time that a lowercase writing style became standardised, which made manuscripts much quicker to write and easier to read. 
  • 1439: Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to Europe. It used movable metal letters which had to be arranged to print a text. These were stored in upper and lower cases to make them easy to organise and access when typesetting.
  • 1553: Spanish typographer Juan de Yciar published Arte subtilissima one of the earliest manuals on typography and printing.
  • 1600s: The first type designers of Latin typefaces used Carolingian minuscules to model what we now call lowercase letters. This design has remained largely unchanged to this day. 
  • 1800s: Grammatical standardisation cemented the use of upper and lowercase letters. Uppercase became reserved for headlines, proper nouns and the first word of sentences (sentence case) and lowercase for most printed text.

 

When to use lowercase

 

Lowercase letters are widely used in most written communications, such as: 

 

  • Emails.
  • Social media posts.
  • Taglines and straplines.
  • Longform web copy.
  • Brochures, leaflets and other printed marketing materials.
  • Information on product packaging.

 

In most situations, sentences start with a capital letter followed by lowercase text. Proper nouns and acronyms require uppercase letters, but apart from that, most of the time we use lowercase. But it’s also possible to get creative using lowercase

 

Graphic designers and copywriters often use lowercase to convey a friendlier, chattier tone in branding, advertising and marketing. Brands like eBay, Amazon, Adidas and Facebook all famously use lowercase in their logo designs to help set them apart. The softer typography can be perceived as friendly, approachable and modern. 

 

Beyond the brand name, using lowercase can also help brands connect with younger audiences. The trend to type in lowercase among Gen Z has led to lots of brands adopting this style to seem more authentic and appeal to younger people. It’s a more informal way of writing, especially on social media and messaging platforms.

 

 

Examples of lowercase typography styles.

 

Different fonts can convey different aesthetics and moods, which means some have become more widely used and others associated with specific kinds of text.  
 

Typography styles can be broken down into serif, sans-serif, and script fonts. Below are a few examples of popular lowercase fonts: 

 

  • Times New Roman: This classic British serif font features small lines attached to the letters. The traditional font is neat, compact and easy to read, making it a popular choice for books and general printing. It was first developed for the English newspaper The Times.
  • Arial: Another popular font - this time sans-serif. Thanks to its clean lines and good legibility, Arial became the default font for Microsoft Word and other Microsoft Office applications. It’s also widely used in website text and other digital formats. 
  • Lucida Handwriting: Designed to look like handwritten text, this script font features soft lines and letters which flow into one another. Script fonts are used to convey a personal, human touch on digital designs such as invitations or birthday cards. They can also be used for digitally signing documents.  
  • Futura: A modern, geometric German font. All Futura’s characters are drawn from a circle, square or triangle, which gives it a very clean, neutral look and feel. It’s often used in signage and on business forms like receipts and invoices, which need to convey information simply and without emotion.
  • Garamond: Known for its elegance and readability, this Dutch font was invented by French engraver Claude Garamond in the 16th century. Garamond fonts are widely used in digital media, such as websites and electronic documents for its professional appearance.

 

 

How to convert uppercase to lowercase.   

 

If you’ve ever looked up from your keyboard to realise CAPSLOCK has been on this whole time, you’re not alone. Don’t hit delete - converting uppercase letters to lowercase letters is simple if you know how.

 

Change capital letters to lowercase in Microsoft Excel.

Got a list of information in capital letters in Excel? There’s a simple formula to change it: 

 

  • Insert a temporary column next to the column containing the text you want to convert.
  • In the new column, type =LOWER(A2) - in this example, A2 represents the first cell you want to convert.
  • You can then drag this formula down the column to apply it to all the corresponding cells.
  • The same can be done to convert lowercase to uppercase using =UPPER(A2) or to capitalise the first letter of each word =PROPER(A2).

 

How to change capital letters to lowercase in Microsoft Word.

Converting uppercase to lowercase in Word applications is simple. 

 

  • Use the keyboard shortcut by selecting the text and pressing SHIFT +F3. This will change between lowercase, UPPERCASE and Capitalising Each Word each time you press.
  • You can also convert lowercase to uppercase through the menu bar:
    • Select the text you want to change.
    • On the Home tab, click the arrow in the lower-right corner of the Font section.
    • In the dialogue box, under Effects, tick or untick all caps.

 

Font dialogue box in Word Doc showing highlighted text saying: ‘How to change from uppercase to lowercase’, with the ‘All caps’ option selected.

Convert uppercase to lowercase in Google Docs. 

Google Docs also lets you change uppercase to lowercase

 

  • Select the text you want to change.
  • Click Format in the menu bar.
  • Select Text.
  • Select Capitalisation.
  • Select lowercase, UPPERCASE or Title Case.

 

Convert all caps to lowercase in Adobe Photoshop.

There are several ways you can change capitalisation in Adobe programmes, like Photoshop. Depending on the software and what you’re trying to achieve, you can change All Caps, Small Caps, Lowercase, Title Case and Uppercase. 

 

Read our full guide to formatting characters to find out more. 

 

 

Lowercase FAQS.

 

What does lowercase mean?

Lowercase letters are those that aren’t capitalised. They make up the majority of written text. The term originated with the printing press, when capital letters were organised into an upper case and small letters into the lower case, as they were used more often and needed to be easier to reach. 

 

Is lowercase one word or two?

Unusually, both upper and lowercase can be written as two words, hyphenated (upper-case and lower-case) or as single words. 

 

Why do young people type in lowercase?

Gen Z and Gen Alpha increasingly prefer to type in all lowercase. This shift can be put down to a desire to seem more informal, authentic and relaxed when communicating online. The use of language has always been fluid and every generation has introduced new ways of speaking and writing.

Use lowercase typography in your designs with Adobe Photoshop.

 

Whether you’re creating leaflets and flyers or social media posts, Adobe Photoshop enables you to get creative with lowercase typography.