Why you should use camel case for your hashtags

By Posted in - Accessibility & Readability on August 7th, 2020 1 Comments A camel. Text reads "Why you should use camel case for your hashtags". you should use

Remember Susan Boyle?

The winner of Britain’s Got Talent celebrated the launch of her fourth album with a Twitter campaign.

The campaign adopted the confusing hashtag #susanalbumparty.

Susan album party? Su’s anal bum party?

Fans didn’t know what to expect.

The misunderstanding could have been resolved by simply using camel case. With upper camel case, the misleading hashtag #susanalbumparty becomes #SusanAlbumParty.

Clarity is restored. Readability and accessibility are provided.

But is that same clarity found in the education sector?

What is camel case?

Camel case is the practice of capitalising the first letter of each word when writing compound words or phrases, with the exception of the first word. Examples include:

– eBay
– eBook
– iPhone
– macOS
– vCard

If you also want to capitalise the first word, then that is called upper camel case, or pascal case. For instance:

– BlackBerry
– ContentEd
– LinkedIn
– PlayStation
– YouTube

It is called camel case (sometimes stylised as camelCase) because the capital letters are taller than the lower-case letters. This causes rise and fall in the visual presentation of the hashtag, which recall the humps on the back of a camel.

Nowadays, we encounter a high number of compound phrases online, due to widespread use of multi-worded hashtags on social media.

This means the need for camel case is greater than ever.

Camel case improves accessibility

Camel case is an important accessibility requirement.

Screen readers cannot identify the individual words in a hashtag without camel case. This means the content will be inaccessible to users of screen readers.

This could be a significant proportion of your audience. Lots of people use screen readers, including:

– Blind people
– Dyslexic people
– People who are partially sighted
– People who wish to lighten their reading load
– People who like the experience of using a screen reader.

Camel case will make your hashtags accessible to all of these people.

And more, because…

Camel case improves readability

Camel case doesn’t solely benefit users of screen readers.

Camel case improves understanding and readability for everyone. It offers clear, scannable information to our audiences to make their lives easier.

This helps:

– People in a hurry
– People with low literacy
– People who are stressed
– People who are multi-tasking
– People with low English fluency
– People with cognitive impairments.

As shown in the Susan Boyle example, we don’t want to make our audience stop and think by causing confusion. Our hashtags should be helpful, not a hindrance.

Camel case in the education sector

But is camel case adopted in the education sector?

I conducted some light market research, inspired by my colleague’s recent look at readability in the education sector.

Firstly, I chose a sample of 10 universities:

– Half are post-1992 universities
– Half are Russell Group universities
– All represent a geographical spread across the UK
– All are ranked in the Top 20 of at least one UK league table.

Secondly, I visited their institutional Instagram and Twitter accounts. I looked at whether their recent posts used camel case, or upper camel case, when writing hashtags.

I discovered:

– Only one university used camel case consistently on Instagram
– Only two universities used camel case consistently on Twitter
– Two universities used camel case occasionally on Instagram
– Four universities used camel case occasionally on Twitter.

Admittedly, this is a very small sample of the sector, but it does show that camel case isn’t universally adopted when writing hashtags.

Why might this be?

There is no extra effort required to write a hashtag in camel case, so it cannot be a resource issue.

Therefore, I assume the absence of camel case is due to a lack of understanding about social media accessibility.

Improve your accessibility

Pickle Jar Communications would love to partner with you to improve your social media accessibility.

There are a variety of services that we can provide:

– Delivering accessibility training for your staff
– Conducting an accessibility audit of your channels
– Providing recommendations to help you address accessibility issues
– Writing an accessibility strategy for your institution
– Creating accessible content for your channels: copy, images, audio, video.

If you want to commit to creating a social media presence which supports readability and accessibility, then we would love to hear from you. Please do get in touch.

In the meantime, remember to use camel case for your hashtags.

Or you will give your followers the hump.

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