Mixing small caps and lower case, e.g., plurals and possessives

Drudge's picture

Dear Typophile,

What is the convention when mixing small caps and lower case in the same word?

For instance, if I am setting all abbreviations in small caps, I might have the phrase ‘he had two DVDs on his shelf’. How do I stop it looking like ‘he had two DVDS on his shelf’ (you have to imagine these large caps are small caps!).

Another example might be a possessive. ‘the new DVD’s cover was blank’. In theory it's okay, but in some typefaces the lower case S actually comes out larger than the small caps, which looks a little striking.

Are there any conventions here? Or tips people have found from experience look best when mixing small caps and lower case in the same word?

All best wishes,

Drudge

J. Tillman's picture

Drudge, I do not have an answer to your exact question. These types of problems, using small caps in technical writing, have come up in the past:
http://typophile.com/node/84025
http://typophile.com/node/89876
http://www.typophile.com/node/92747
http://www.typophile.com/node/99592

Some people (like me) say forget small caps for this purpose. Just use a font where the capital letters are definitely smaller than the full height letters, such as Gentium, Greta Text, or Malabar. Or even use a font where the capital letters are somewhat smaller than full height, like Skolar. And don't even mess with the small caps problems.

Some people say use a font where the small caps are definitely higher than the x-height. But there are not too many fonts designed like this, even though this is what is needed for tech writing.

Some people say Drudge, just use your good judgment, buddy.

Maybe someone else will have a better answer.

R.'s picture

If you have to (or want to) stick with small caps, there are two options: If you are bound to a certain typeface, you have to live with the way it looks. If you are not, do what J. Tillmann suggests in his third paragraph: select a typeface that has tall small caps. Here are some examples, good and bad. Scala and Maiola in the first and second line make it hard for the reader to tell apart small caps and lowercase. Kepler in the third line and Chaparral in the last are better in this respect.

J Weltin's picture

You can also either scale down caps at iny bit, or scale up a tiny bit the small caps.

Nick Shinn's picture

…where the small caps are definitely higher than the x-height … there are not too many fonts designed like this.

I suspect there are quite a few.
Having faced the same predicament as Drudge when I was art directing, I for one have subsequently always made my small caps significantly taller than x-height.

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