It only took them about 20 years, but the folks at the National Weather Service finally got the memo: STOP WITH THE ALL CAPS.
The agency said this week it’s doing away with its “all uppercase, all the time” reports in favor of, you know, normal communication.
In case you weren’t familiar with the format, every time you wanted to looked up, say, how much rain’s in the forecast, the weather service would spring something like this on you:
“THERE IS A SLIGHT RISK OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS OVER PARTS OF SOUTH TEXAS.”
Sheesh, all that yelling.
But come next month, the weather service will lower its letters — and use its indoor voice. Like this:
There is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms over parts of South Texas.
Much better, no?
It’s not that the weather service wasn’t aware that all-caps communication comes across as just rude.
Oh no, it’s asked for this change many, many times since the dawn of the Internet.
But change takes time.
And change in government takes a lifetime.
That was then, this is now
Time was, weather reports were sent out over teleprinters, which were basically typewriters hooked up to phone lines. And those things only recognized uppercase letters.
That explains the why behind the reports.
But that was a century ago.
What explains the why still?
Short answer: Like people who still rent landlines or use AOL mail, some folks haven’t gotten around to upgrading.
“Mariners in older ships, for instance,” says Art Thomas, a meteorologist for the weather service.
Then there are those who just don’t want to.
Thomas says the weather service conducted a survey as it experimented with the change. It got back 325 responses — 300 positive and 25 not so much.
Some of them, he says, “just thought (all caps) was easier to read — which is a matter of personal opinion.”
Well, those folks have until May 11 to get with the program.
That’s when the weather services ditches its Caps Lock.
Except in cases where the agency really needs to make a point. Like: TORNADO EMERGENCY TAKE COVER NOW.
“We think it will stand out more than have it buried within the product,” Thomas says.
But one thing isn’t going away: The font for the reports will still be Courier New.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.