Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jan 2010 13:31 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Every now and then on OSNews, we discuss typography and language. Despite the fact that many think it's not relevant for computing - it most certainly is. Whether you're browsing the web, reading email, or chatting over IM - the most common element on your computer screen is typography. Today, I want to discuss something we barely have in my native language: small capitals.
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RE: I like small caps
by Doc Pain on Tue 12th Jan 2010 19:44 UTC in reply to "I like small caps"
Doc Pain
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Thom, I always enjoy your side excursions into the typographic.

I may express the famous "me too" here. :-)

I like small caps.

I've worked for some years in the scientific / academic sector and have done typography there. Small caps came in handy when you wanted to connect, let's say, a person's name to an effect, which is done this way in German: "der SCHULZsche Effekt" (no idea if such a thing really exists, but let's assume this for an illustration purpose). In this example, the name "SCHULZ" should start with a regular capital S and and continue with small caps for C up to Z; then "sche" is appended in small letters. It really does look good when set correctly. This special form is used to show that "Schulz" is not an abbreviation (which are set in capitals, and may or may not contain dots, such as "N. V." or "KVP"). Other means, used in the absence of small caps, are typesetting it in italics, and maybe adding an apostrophe, e. g. "Schulz'scher Effekt". Of course, small caps can include hyphens for concatenated nouns, e. g. "die Van-der-Beulen-Schaltung", named after some arbitrary mister van der Beulen.

Of course, LaTeX is the tool of choice. It offers the \sc macro: {\sc This is in small caps!} with scopus, or \sc now small caps \rm and now normal roman font again.

As you will agree, LaTeX is for professional typesetting, usually on paper, and often for PDF files. It's not used for the web.


Is the web usable for typography?

As a sidenote: Many written (i. e. printed) languages suggest the use of ligatures, such as "ck", "ch", "ff", "fl", "ffl" or "fi" and many others in German. If you want to have something typeset correctly, you can hardly achieve this with web tools. The usual workaround is to provide a PDF file that contains all the typographic properties.

The use of sporadic capitals and small caps helped those broadsheets convey something that is missing from modern, Helvetica-inspired web communications. It very clearly conveys EMOTION, C A D E N C E, and authorial emphasis. Texting, emails, and web postings are often found to be problematic because they are missing so many of those elements. The need for an emoticon arises, in part, because of a mechanical reliance on a single typeface with no emotional inflection.

That's what smileys (to be delivered as embedded and animated pictures) are to be used for on the web. :-)

English has been marked by rapid evolution in spelling, word invention, and the adoption of phrases from other languages. It's fun!

Every language is fun, as soon as you are able to master it. :-)

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