On a recent flight on my favorite airline, I picked up a copy of Southwest’s in-flight magazine, Spirit. It is a great magazine, with a wonderful balance of small nuggets of information, entertaining stories and aspirational features about travel destinations. But there is one part of the magazine that I dislike with a passion: the CEO letter from Gary Kelly.
Kelly’s letter is a tremendous opportunity for the CEO of Southwest to communicate directly with customers. And, the content itself is pretty good. He talks about company milestones, financial performance and corporate values, such as Southwest’s commitment to customer service. He does so in a mostly reader-focused way, and often injects personal anecdotes to relate his own experience to the subject. These are all good things, but his column is painful to read. Why? He capitalizes words that shouldn’t be capitalized in an effort to emphasize them. That interrupts the flow of consuming an otherwise enjoyable column.
Unreasonably upper-cased words include: Employees, Customers, Customer Service, Customer Experience, Company and Shareholders. If you think I’m being petty by pointing this out, these words are used a lot in his column. The intention is to show respect and communicate that the capitalized subjects are valued. In truth, not only does it make the column difficult to read, it comes across as a cheap substitute for the real thing.
There are many other airlines (and companies in other industries) that might use a tactic like capitalizing “employees” or “customers” to feign respect. The problem is that people see right through this stuff. More importantly, Southwest doesn’t need to do this. I know I am valued as a customer by every interaction I have with Southwest employees. I know the employees are respected by the smiles on their faces and their dedication to their jobs. It’s definitely not because the CEO capitalized the word “employees.”
Capitalization where it doesn’t belong does nothing except get in the way of your message. And that’s something no one wants. So, my message to Gary Kelly and any other so-inclined CEOs is this: let me read your message and get rid of the crazy capitalization.