Of all the words in the English language, the capital letter “I” has to be one of the easiest to type. I suppose the lower case word “a” is even easier since you don’t have to use the shift button on your computer keyboard, but capital “I” is a close second. Yet, every now and then I see a post, usually on Facebook, where someone has written lower case “i” to refer to him/herself. I always take notice, and I’m always a little disappointed that someone would go to that length to type that way.
Why? Let’s take a short look at handwriting. I’ve studied handwriting analysis (a long time ago in a city far, far away), and it has the potential to give an expert an insight into the psyche of the writer. It can provide a window into the ego, into the subconscious of the writer. People will often reveal characteristics of themselves in their handwriting they would never reveal in conversation. A lot of factors go into analyzing handwriting, including the slant of the writing, the pressure of the pen on the paper, the spacing of words, spacing of lines, the way certain letters are formed, and so on. And it includes how they make the capital letter “I”. There are so many factors I can’t list them here, and I don’t even know all of them. Handwriting analysis has to be used with care to avoid ascribing something to a person that isn’t there. As a result, a handwriting analyst has to be very highly trained, a situation in which I definitely do not belong. I do know that the letter “I” is a reflection of the self, and can reveal things about how the writer feels about him/herself. So when I see a lower case “i” in a blog or Facebook post, I always wonder about what the person is thinking. What’s going on in his/her life that caused him/her to write about themselves in lower case. But there’s more to it than that.
When someone writes with pen or pencil on paper, writing lower case “i” is simple and straight forward. Just a tiny vertical line with a dot above. But on a computer, at least with the writing programs that I am familiar with—Microsoft Word, WordPress, and Facebook—writing lower case “i” will be changed to the upper case form by auto-correct. In fact, it already has several times in this post. Whenever I’ve written “i”, I’ve had to go back and change it from upper to lower case because auto-correct has taken the lower case and made it upper. And then it flags it with that red, wavy underline because “i” isn’t in its list of acceptable words. That means that anyone who wants to purposely write the lower case version on a computer also has to go back and change it. Not as simple as writing on paper. So why do they do that?
I can’t say in any particular situation and I am certainly in no position to try to analyze it, and I suspect the reason may be different for different people. I’ve seen only a few examples of it, but it always concerns me. It tells me something about the person I may not want to know. It could, potentially, at least, be an indication that the person is feeling “down” or “blue” in some way, perhaps seriously. I always wonder if I should notify someone. (However, that could be an invasion of privacy.) If you see a lower case “i”, I suggest you wonder about it too.