7 Italic, roman, and other type treatments

7.5 Capitals

7.5.1 Full capitals

Full capitals are usually used for initialisms (MA, ECG, RSS; see Chapter 10), and for people known by their initials (JFK, J. K. Rowling; see Chapter 6); acronyms may be all capitals or initial capital (UNESCO/Unesco; see also 10.2.4 and 21.4.4).

The use of initial capitals is discussed in Chapter 5.

Full capitals (and small capitals) may be used for displaying text on half-title and title pages, for logos and imprints, and for other types of special presentation and display. They are indicated on hard copy by a triple underline. In word processing prefer upper case to the attribute ‘All Caps’.

Full capitals are usually too prominent to be used for emphasis in open text, but they are sometimes used, as are small capitals, to mimic inscriptions or to reproduce original orthography:

The earliest Scandinavian coins, inscribed ‘CNVT REX ÆNOR’ (‘Cnut, king of Danes’), seem to have been struck … no later than 1015

7.5.2 Small capitals

Small capitals are about two-thirds the size of large capitals, as in this style of type, and are indicated on hard copy by a double underline. In typography, the term ‘even s. caps.’ instructs that the word(s) should be set entirely in small capitals, rather than a combination of capitals and small capitals.

Although small capitals are traditionally used in a number of set contexts, which are described below, they are not available in certain typefaces. It is possible to reduce capital letters to the size of small capitals, but this method is not suitable for ebooks and other electronic publications. For a text that requires a great many small capitals, a typeface that already includes them should be selected.

The main uses of small capitals are as follows:

  • • for specifying eras (ad, bc, bce, ah; see Chapter 10). In an italic context they may be set in italics; otherwise, small capitals are generally set only in roman type

  • • for displayed subsidiary titles and headings, for signatures in printed correspondence, for academic qualifications following names displayed in a list, and sometimes for postcodes

  • • for reproduced all-capital inscriptions, headlines, notices, and so forth, if these are not reduced to capital and lower case. Formerly, full-capital abbreviations (such as BBC) were often set in even small capitals. While this practice has fallen out of widespread use, it remains a convenient alternative for those disciplines routinely requiring full-capital abbreviations in text, which otherwise can look jarring on the printed page

  • • in some styles, for the first word or words of chapters: these may be styled with spaced capital and small capital letters ‘Thus’ to introduce the text (see 1.3.4)

  • • in chemistry to denote molecular configurations d and l and oxidation states

  • • for cross-references and indexing:

    sing the praises of see Praise

  • • in some styles, for authors’ names in bibliographies

  • • for characters’ names in plays:

    cecily When I see a spade I call it a spade.
    gwendolen I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade.

  • • for Roman numerals in references, sigla (letters or symbols used to denote a particular manuscript or edition of a text), and play citations with more than one level

  • • for centuries in French and generally in Latin:

    le xième [or xie] siècle

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Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms