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Should I use capital letters (titlecase) when using small caps?


Question

I just came to realize this problem with chapter titles in my thesis.

I'm using small caps for them, but I also noticed that (because I'm use to it) I wrote them in titlecase, e.g.:

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However, if I use a long chapter title, I'm not so sure if it looks ok...

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Since I'm not a graphic designer, nor my aesthetics are very good (go figure, I'm a scientist) I would like your help on what should I do:

  1. Go completely with lower case
  2. Use titlecase
  3. Use upper case for all of them
  4. Use Capital letter on the first word of the title
2014/06/03
1
3
6/3/2014 11:48:00 AM

Accepted Answer

The short answer is that it is a matter of taste.

The longer answer is that "small caps" were developed for use within running text so that "all capitals," when you stand back and squint, have a similar texture and color to the regular surrounding text. This was typically a hand-crafted font and not just a smaller point size.

From that perspective, "small caps" is not intended to be mixed with "regular caps." And if you subscribe to such things, then this is the only correct thing to do. Then again, it used to be a thing to wear stockings and powdered wigs.

However, it is obviously a common thing to mix small caps with regular caps for stylistic reasons, so why not?

Personally I have used them in the past and even done things like "Technological backgrounD," but my current taste is all caps or nothing. I think that if you are thinking about it and you think it looks "not so great," then trust your judgement and go with all caps. Use a Display Titles font if available and maybe increase the tracking (letter spacing) slightly.

If there is a departmental style guide which prescribes typesetting, you should follow it.

2014/06/03
5
6/3/2014 2:10:00 PM

Set the titles in All Caps and make the type size a little smaller than your current small caps.

Two reasons for this:

  • Title case with small caps is like using bold italics. Either bold or italic is fine on its own for emphasis, so using both is redundant.

  • The particular typeface you're using doesn't have true Small Caps, so the initial cap is slightly bolder than the rest of the word (because these "small caps" are just capitals at a smaller point size). It looks ugly.

2014/06/04