The Holy Trinity of things that should stop: title case, periods, and deleting posts

Last week I had three conversations I have about once every month. The difference was this time they all happened on the same day.

The first and second of this trinity came when changing the subject line of an email campaign announcing an event. It was a “save the date”. Which is another silly thing, but we don’t have time for that today.

In any event, the email, which said almost nothing except “this is a thing that should happen”, was set. We had two subject lines prepared for A/B testing. 20% of the list would get subject A and another 20% would get subject B. Whichever had a higher open rate after a few hours would go to the rest of the list.

Then the feedback came. The consensus was the subject lines should be more similar, Use Title Case, and end with periods.

Nevermind having two subject lines be more similar defeats the purpose of testing. Stop using title case in subjects and headlines. Also stop with the periods.

The purpose of a headline is to lead people into a story. You want people to keep reading. This is why newspaper stories broke with the title casing tradition a century ago. See for yourself from this very real #MostIndiana news story:


Bill That Would Require Cursive Writing to be Taught in Indiana Schools Passes Senate.

The legislation, Senate Bill 8, will now move to the House of Representatives.


Bill that would require cursive writing to be taught in Indiana schools passes Senate

The legislation, Senate Bill 8, will now move to the House of Representatives.


See what I mean? The first feels dense as a brick. It’s harder to skim. The period prompted you to stop reading. In fact, you probably skipped the line under it and went straight to the next headline, which is the way it’s originally written. The second headline never “stopped”, did it?

We sent the campaign with two subjects that were basically the same and written like a boring thesis statement. Both were so long they didn’t fit in any subject line field. The campaign performed poorly.

The third item in the holy trinity of things that are a waste of time came from Facebook. If you didn’t think there was a way to waste more time on Facebook, we found it.

The conversation always starts the same:

“Hey, I just noticed on our Face Book page there are a bunch of things that are old. Can you delete those? People might get confused.”

This comes from the “Facebook as bulletin board” metaphor that trips people up. Facebook isn’t designed for you to delete things. Ever. Sure, you can delete things. But if you do it messes with other people. All their links, comments, shares, and conversations are removed. A post that was shared and then deleted just means less visibility for you. If you’re going to delete something, make sure it’s because it looks really bad or flat out doesn’t work. If you’re hung up on the fact your page shows a bunch of old stuff: do more interesting things so it’s always new.

My response is the same every time:

“Facebook doesn’t intend for things to be deleted. By removing a post you’re removing it from other people’s timelines and it throws errors. You should treat Facebook posts like newspapers. They get made, viewed, and then forgotten. Some of them get saved, but most just go away. Regardless, the New York Times did not run around the country collecting and burning the newspapers the day after the moon landing. They are a record of what has happened. That is immensely beneficial in the future in many circumstances.

Also, if people are so confused by a Facebook post they buy tickets in a place that won’t sell them anymore and go to an event that isn’t happening, they should lie down.”

I may or may not always add that last part.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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