Leeds University in the United Kingdom thinks its students are delicate fawns, easily startled as they eat their morning daisies and dew grass.

The journalism department has asked their lecturers not to overuse the words "do" and "don't," or to write words in ALL CAPS, so as to not frighten their delicate charges.

According to a story in The London Daily Express, Leeds' administrators believe that lecturers who use capital letters when assigning work might upset students and "scare them into failure."

No, seriously. They think that writing in all caps will frighten the students and give them anxiety. Is this is why the Federal Bureau of Investigation puts "FBI" on its jackets? To frighten the bad guys into submission?

A memo sent to the journalism lecturers said: "Despite our best attempts to explain assessment tasks, any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all. Generally, avoid using capital letters for emphasis and the overuse of 'do,' and, especially, 'DON'T.'"

Unfortunately, that "DON'T" caused three lecturers to be rushed to the hospital with chest pains.

Look, I'm a writer. I believe in the power of language. Words can cause war and bring peace. They can teach, they can persuade, they can make people laugh and cry. In the right hands, words can make people come to blows or fall in love.

But even I doubt the power of the actual letters being able to cause fright. That's like saying the number 7 makes you sad.

Despite what Leeds University said, using ALL CAPS to emphasize a word is not frightening. People aren't thrown into a tizzy just because they see capitalized words like NASA and UPS. They're not startled by the beginning of a sentence.

Finding a note on your bed that says "I WILL KILL YOU AS YOU SLEEP!" is terrifying, but it's not like seeing that written in normal letters is less threatening. Formatting it in Comic Sans doesn't turn it into a whimsical limerick.

Context is what's important here. Threatening notes in all caps are frightening, important information in all caps draws attention to it. It doesn't (or at least shouldn't) scare students into failure.

Using all caps is how you AVOID a lack of clarity, sort of like I did right there. I wanted you to see the word "avoid," so I capitalized it. Capitalizing draws students' attention to important information, so they don't miss it, which actually could lead to failure.

Instead, Leeds administrators want the faculty to write in a friendly tone and avoid overbearing and negative language.

So rather than writing "FAILURE TO SUBMIT ASSIGNMENTS ON TIME WILL RESULT IN FAILURE OF THIS COURSE," one should say "Please, delicate fawns, if you could perchance submit your assignments on time, I'd be ever so grateful."

Now, I understand that in the real world, writing in all caps is considered shouting, especially in an email or a text. But people in the real world don't stay home from work just because someone wrote in all caps.

Of course, in the real world, some people believe putting a period at the end of a sentence in a text is seen as being angry, so I don't know, maybe I've been angry in this column 49 times.

Bottom line, the administrators at Leeds University are doing their students a real disservice by trying to protect them from the harsh world of capital letters. If the students weren't whiny little snowflakes before, four years of this kind of mollycoddling will turn them into that.

Children of the Leeds Journalism department — and I call you children because I hesitate to call anyone an adult who hides behind this nonsense — you are learning to become reporters. You are being trained to enter the world of journalism.

You allegedly want to join a profession that Donald Trump has called "the enemy of the people." The media speaks truth to power and exposes corruption, and they're shouted at and threatened for doing it. How can you expect to handle that if hearing "don't" stresses you out?

Reporters do amazing things. When your parents were children, two reporters from The Washington Post uncovered the Watergate scandal and ended a presidency. In 1986, a Lebanese news magazine and The New York Times exposed the Iran-Contra scandal. And in 2013, The Washington Post and The Guardian broke the NSA illegal surveillance scandal, and shared the Pulitzer Prize that year.

This is dangerous work, and journalists put themselves in harm's way constantly. Two months ago, a Saudi Arabian journalist was killed, dismembered while he was still alive, because his government didn't like what he said. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 45 journalists have been killed in 2018 alone just for doing their jobs. Journalists around the world are targeted for harassment and violence because powerful people fear them.

But you're afraid of capital letters.

Listen, Children of Leeds, if you're "scared into failure" because a lecturer occasionally uses capital letters or gives you a list of dos and don'ts, then journalism isn't for you. You're too fragile. You don't have the grit, determination, or emotional health to spend more than a few days in a professional newsroom, and your professors are setting you up for failure.

Do yourself a favor. Quit journalism and quit school. Drop out of the real world, because you're not strong enough to deal with it. Go back to work at the fair trade coffee house and stick to writing poetry that no one will ever read.

Because when you let school administrators baby you and shelter you from certain words and capital letters, you're never going to be tough enough to be a journalist, let alone be someone who lives their life in capital letters.

Photo credit: ractapopulous (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

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