Small capital

This article is about typography. For the stock market "small cap", see Market capitalization.

In typography, small capitals (usually abbreviated small caps) are uppercase (capital) characters set at the same height and weight as surrounding lowercase (small) letters or text figures. They are used in running text to prevent capitalized words from appearing too large on the page, and as a method of emphasis or distinctiveness for text alongside or instead of italics, or when boldface is inappropriate. For example, TEXT IN CAPS appears as text in caps. They can be used to draw attention to the opening phrase or line of a new section of text, or to provide an additional style in a dictionary entry where many parts must be typographically differentiated.

Typically, the height of a small capital will be one ex, the same height as most lowercase characters in the font. In Anglo-Saxon typography, small caps are about 10% larger than the x-height. To differentiate between these two variants the x-height form is sometimes called petite caps.[1] OpenType fonts can define both forms via the "small caps" and the "petite caps" features. Because the support for the petite caps feature is absent from most desktop-publishing programs, many fonts use x-height small caps in the small-caps feature. Well designed small capitals are not simply scaled-down versions of normal capitals; they normally retain the same stroke weight as other letters and have a wider aspect ratio for readability.

Many word processors and text-formatting systems include an option to format text in caps and small caps, which leaves uppercase letters as they are, but converts lowercase letters to small caps. How this is implemented depends on the typesetting system; some can use true small caps associated with modern professional fonts, making text such as "Latvia joined Nato on March 29, 2004" look proportional; but less complex digital fonts do not have a small-caps case, so the typesetting system simply reduces the uppercase letters by a fraction, making them look out of proportion. A work-around to simulate real small capitals is to use a one-level bolder version of the small caps generated by such systems, to match well with the normal weights of capitals and lowercase, especially when such small caps are extended about 5% or letterspaced a half point or a point


Small caps are often used for sections of text that is all uppercase; this makes the run of capital letters seem less jarring to the reader. For example, the style of many American publications, including the Atlantic Monthly and USA Today, is to use small caps for acronyms and initialisms longer than three letters—thus "U.S." in normal caps, but "nato" in small caps. The initialisms ad, bc, am, and pm are often smallcapped.

In printed plays and stage directions, small caps are usually used for the names of characters before their lines.

French and some British publications use small caps to indicate the surname by which someone with a long formal name is to be designated in the rest of a written work. An elementary example is Don Quixote de La Mancha. Similarly, they are used for those languages in which the surname comes first, such as the Romanization Mao Zedong.

In many versions of the Old Testament of the Bible, the word "Template:Lord" is set in small caps.[2] Typically, an ordinary "Lord" corresponds to the use of the word Adonai in the original Hebrew, but the small caps "Template:Lord" corresponds to the use of Yahweh in the original; in some versions the compound "Lord GOD" represents the Hebrew compound Adonai Yahweh.

In zoological and botanical nomenclature, it is common use to print names of the family group in small caps.

Linguists use small caps to analyze the morphology and tag the parts of speech in a sentence; e.g.,
She          loves               you,    yeah yeah yeah 2.obj. interj.

The Bluebook prescribes small caps for some titles in United States legal citations.

In many books, when one part of the book mentions another part of the same book, or mentions the work as a whole, the name is set in small caps (sometimes with normal capitals for the initial letters of certain words in the title), not italics and not roman type within quotation marks. For example, articles in The World Book Encyclopedia refer to the encyclopedia as a whole and to the encyclopedia's other articles in small caps, as in the "Insurance" article's direction, at one point, to "See No-Fault Insurance", "No-Fault Insurance" being another of the encyclopedia's articles.


Small caps can be specified in CSS using "font-variant: small-caps;". For example, the HTML

Jane Doe

renders as

Jane Doe.

Since the CSS styles the text, readers are still able to copy the normally-capitalized plain text from the web page as rendered by a browser.


Although small caps are not usually "semantically important", the [1].

As of Unicode 5.1, the only characters missing to allow representation of the full Latin alphabet in small capital Unicode characters are small capital versions of Q and X. The following table collects the existing Unicode small capital characters:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
ʙ ɢ ʜ ɪ ʟ ɴ ʀ ʏ

Additionally, the Phonetic Extensions range has superscript "small capital" characters.

These "small capital" characters should not be confused with the Unicode Standard's typographical convention of using small caps for formal Unicode character names in running text. For example, the name of U+0416 Ж is conventionally shown as Template:Smallcaps all.[3]


George Eliot's 1856 essay "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists"[4] is critical of Victorian novelists for using excessive small caps and for employing them in inappropriate contexts (such as using small caps in place of italics to indicate emphasis).

See also


  • Willberg, Hans and Forssman, Friedrich (2010). Lesetypografie. Verlag Hermann Schmitz, Mainz. ISBN 978-3-87439-800-8.
  • Bringhurst, Robert (2004). The Elements of Typographic Style (version 3.0). Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-205-5.

External links

  • Medieval Unicode Font Initiative
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