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How might one implement a simple drop cap in plain TeX without additional packages?

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What is a drop cap? –  Sigur Sep 2 '12 at 0:00
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See here, particularly the accepted answer. –  Daryl Sep 2 '12 at 0:31
    
@Daryl C j is asking for drop caps in plain TeX; the answer you linked to is the standard solution in LaTeX and it doesn't apply to plain. –  Gonzalo Medina Sep 2 '12 at 3:30
    
@Sigur: see Initial. –  Gonzalo Medina Sep 2 '12 at 3:31
    
There is one here, using \parshape like in Gonzalo's answer. –  morbusg Sep 2 '12 at 6:10
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1 Answer

Here's a very basic approach showing two possibilities; the first one using \hangindent and the second one (more flexible), \parshape:

\font\lettrine=cmssdc10 at 30pt
\font\scfont=cmcsc10
\hsize=24pc

\noindent{\lettrine L}

\vskip-2.15\baselineskip\hangindent=1.8pc \hangafter-2 \noindent{\scfont orem} ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Ut purus elit, vestibulum ut, placerat ac,
adipiscing vitae, felis. Curabitur dictum gravida mauris. Nam arcu libero, nonummy eget,
consectetuer id, vulputate a, magna. Donec vehicula augue eu neque. Pellentesque 
habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Mauris ut 
leo. Cras viverra metus rhoncus sem. Nulla et lectus vestibulum urna fringilla ultrices. 
Phasellus eu tellus sit amet tortor gravida placerat. Integer sapien est, iaculis in, pretium
quis, viverra ac, nunc. Praesent eget sem vel leo ultrices bibendum.

\vskip\baselineskip

\noindent{\lettrine L}

\vskip-2.15\baselineskip\parshape 3 1pc 23pc 1.5pc 22.5pc 0pc 24pc \noindent{\scfont orem} ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Ut purus elit, vestibulum ut, placerat ac,
adipiscing vitae, felis. Curabitur dictum gravida mauris. Nam arcu libero, nonummy eget,
consectetuer id, vulputate a, magna. Donec vehicula augue eu neque. Pellentesque 
habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Mauris ut 
leo. Cras viverra metus rhoncus sem. Nulla et lectus vestibulum urna fringilla ultrices. 
Phasellus eu tellus sit amet tortor gravida placerat. Integer sapien est, iaculis in, pretium
quis, viverra ac, nunc. Praesent eget sem vel leo ultrices bibendum.

\bye

enter image description here

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just as an aside, knuth's macro for the "dangerous bend" (found in manmac.tex in every tex distribution) uses basically the same technique as @Gonzalo's first suggestion, with added protection against an unwanted page break after the first line of the paragraph. –  barbara beeton Sep 2 '12 at 12:33
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