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The recommended way of typesetting acronyms is using small caps, e.g.:

This technique is called Remote Procedure Calling or {\scshape rpc}.

However, if the acronym occurs at the beginning of the sentence, would you capitalize its first letter or not?

{\scshape rpc} is the name of this technique.\\
{\scshape Rpc} is the name of this technique.


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Which one would be most appropriate and why?

  • 3
    In this situation, I suggest: "The name of this technique is RPC." It is a good practice to avoid beginning a sentence with an acronym or an abbreviation. See, for example, writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/DocAPAPrinciples.html – user13907 Apr 22 '13 at 13:13
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Don't use capitals in this case. Quoting Hedrick, Fine Points of Typographic Usage:

What do you do if a sentence starts with an acronym, e.g. "RUCS is great." If you're using small caps, I would set RUCS in small caps. Some people are bothered because this seems to violate the rule about capitalizing the first word.

To understand my answer, you need to realize that small caps are used in two completely different ways.

  • In some cases they are used for abbreviations or acronyms, e.g. NATO [typeset in small caps]. In this case the small caps are acting as capital letters that just happen to be smaller than usual.

  • However in some contexts small caps are mixed with full caps. E.g. some people recommend that in bibliographies, the author's name should be in mixed case, with the first letter of each name in full caps and the rest of the name in small caps: CHARLES HEDRICK [typeset with first letter capitalized, rest in small caps]. In this case the small caps are being used as lowercase.

Let's go back to the question of a sentence that starts with an acronym. The problem with using a full cap for the first letter is that by mixing case, it makes it look like the small caps are being used as lowercase. E.g. in "RUCS" if you put R in full caps and the rest in small caps, RUCS [typeset with first letter capitalized, rest in small caps], it looks like a word or name Rucs, not an acronymn. So my rule is:

  • If small caps are being used as capitals (e.g. in acronyms or abbreviations), don't change them when you put them at the beginning of a sentence.

  • If small caps are being used as lowercase, then use normal rules for capitalization. Turn the first letter into full caps at the start of a sentence or elsewhere that capitalization is expected.

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