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While it's well known in design that lowercase is easier to read.

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I think you're confusing legibility with readability. A face can be perfectly legible without being comfortable to read in long passages of text. Most display or decorative faces (assuming they're legible in the first place) fall into that category. A good readable text face like Caslon or Garamond, by contrast, isn't always the best choice for instant legibility (on a billboard, for example).

Handwritten uppercase is more legible in small sizes, especially on newsprint, and the text in talk balloons is usually short. You'll notice that lengthy text in a talk balloon is not so easy to read, but these are very rare.

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  • I read there that legibility is the difference between characters while readability is how easy it is to read words. It says that uppercase is bad for readability. So I don’t understand your answer, why is balloons’ text uppercase ? Nov 21 '11 at 11:52
  • "lengthy text in a talk balloon" ::cough::Pearls Before Swine::cough:: Nov 21 '11 at 12:23
  • user855, Alan gives the answer in the first sentence of the second paragraph: Cartoons traditionally use a "handwriting" font for the speech balloons, and when this font is small, making it mixed case is harder to read. Printing it uppercase makes it easier to read. The roughness and non-whiteness of newsprint also detracts from readability. There are some strips which use lowercase or mixed case deliberately for effect, like "JumpStart," where the kids speak in lowercase but the adults speak in upppercase. Nov 21 '11 at 12:27
  • @LaurenIpsum huh ? unless my above link is wrong, Alan saying "Handwritten uppercase is more legible in small sizes" is incorrect and confuses both terms because legibility (characters difference) doesn't change with size. So you’re saying that they use uppercase because they use a size too small to begin with for lowercase ? Ok I can buy this. Nov 21 '11 at 12:50
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    @user855: The info in the link you refer to is incomplete, and it's wrong. It looks to me like somebody grabbed bits and pieces from different places and put them together without taking time to understand them. Legibility refers to instant comprehensibility of short pieces of text, typically headlines or slogans. Readability has to do with extended passages of text, like books or articles. Handwritten mixed case in small sizes on crappy paper (newsprint) are neither as readable nor as legible as caps. Nov 21 '11 at 21:53
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A good rule of thumb is not to have more than max 25 words/balloon and 50/panel. Printing sizes of daily newspaper comics have gone way down in the past 100 years, and some are printed on very poor quality paper.

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