7

The problem

Small caps are commonly used to typeset acronyms (see e.g., #9534). I personally think that this is good typographic style and makes acronyms less obtrusive.

However, using small caps raises an issue. A lower case “s” to indicate the plural of an acronym is now not easily distinguishable from a small caps “s” that might be part of an acronym anymore.

Here is an example that is typeset in Minion Pro:

Problematic acronyms... (Note that in other fonts, such a CMR, this is less of an issue).

The question

My question consists of two parts:

  1. How would you recommend to solve this problem? (N.B.: I will admit that this is rather a design issue than directly TeX related, but it suits the scope of the page well.

  2. How can I implement this automatically using the glossaries package?

MWE

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{textcase}
\usepackage{fontspec}
    \setmainfont{Minion Pro}

\usepackage[%
    xindy,
    acronym,
    smallcaps,
    shortcuts,
    nomain,
    ]{glossaries}
    % Automatically use smallcaps in lower case for acronyms!
    \renewcommand*{\firstacronymfont}[1]{\MakeTextLowercase{\textsc{#1}}}
    \renewcommand*{\acronymfont}[1]{\MakeTextLowercase{\textsc{#1}}}

\newacronym{ode}{ODE}{ordinary differential equation}
\makeglossaries

\begin{document}

\printglossaries

Acronyms, such as \ac{ode}, blend in well with the text when typeset in small
caps. Doesn't this \ac{ode} look good? Surely it is less obtrusive than ODE.
However, we now have the problem with the plural: \acp{ode}. Is the ``s'' part of
the acronym or not? My professor doesn't see the difference between a lower
case ``s'' and a small caps ``\textsc{s}''. Maybe this becomes more clear when
adding a thin space, as in: \ac{ode}\,s. Or is there a better solution?

\end{document}

Your solution →

  • To me the small s after the small-caps ode is clear enough: it clearly is no small-caps s so it looks like it's denoting a plural – clemens Aug 11 '14 at 11:21
  • @cgnieder in all honest—I agree. But I cannot leave it like this. Actually, The Economist simply leaves it like this as well, see: i.stack.imgur.com/57Y1J.png – Ingo Aug 11 '14 at 11:29
  • setting the plural "s" in \small looks quite distinguishable (as in \textsc{ode}{\small s}). However, how to automate that in glossaries, I don't know. – Steven B. Segletes Aug 11 '14 at 12:19
  • I know the glossaries package can do this. It even has the \glsplural command, and you can set the style of the acronyms via the \glsnamefont command. Check the glossaries package documentation. – Mario S. E. Aug 11 '14 at 12:29
  • 1
    @ingo -- i'm afraid this really is a design question (although it's reasonable to ask how to make it work in latex). the economist has a very distinct small caps font (the best i've seen anywhere, in my opinion), so it's practically impossible to mistake a plural "s" at the end for part of an acronym. you might consider trying to increase very slightly the height of the small caps font to make it more obvious but still relatively unobtrusive. – barbara beeton Aug 11 '14 at 17:50
4

I can't help with the first part of your question as I think that's more appropriate for a design site, but I can answer the second part, how to automatically implement your chosen design in glossaries. The plural suffix used by acronyms is given by \acrpluralsuffix. The smallcaps acronym styles (such as long-sc-short) redefine this as:

\renewcommand*{\acrpluralsuffix}{\glstextup{\glspluralsuffix}}

where \glstextup is defined as:

\newrobustcmd*{\glstextup}[1]{\ifdef\textulc{\textulc{#1}}{\textup{#1}}}

So once you've decided on your design, you can implement it by redefining \acrpluralsuffix. For example, to add a very thinspace (as suggested by tohecz):

\renewcommand*{\acrpluralsuffix}{\hspace{0.05556em}\glspluralsuffix}

Complete example (I don't have Minion Pro, so I've used a different font):

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{textcase}
\usepackage{fontspec}
\setmainfont{Linux Libertine O}

\usepackage[%
    xindy,
    acronym,
    smallcaps,
    shortcuts,
    nomain,
    ]{glossaries}

\renewcommand*{\firstacronymfont}[1]{\MakeTextLowercase{\textsc{#1}}}
\renewcommand*{\acronymfont}[1]{\MakeTextLowercase{\textsc{#1}}}

\renewcommand*{\acrpluralsuffix}{\hspace{0.05556em}\glstextup{\glspluralsuffix}}

\makeglossaries

\newacronym{ode}{ODE}{ordinary differential equation}

\begin{document}

\printglossaries

Acronyms, such as \ac{ode}, blend in well with the text when typeset
in small
caps. Doesn't this \ac{ode} look good? Surely it is less obtrusive
than ODE.
However, we now have the problem with the plural: \acp{ode}. Is the
``s'' part of
the acronym or not? My professor doesn't see the difference between
a lower
case ``s'' and a small caps ``\textsc{s}''. Maybe this becomes more
clear when
adding a thin space, as in: \ac{ode}\,s. Or is there a better
solution?

\end{document}

image of document

With the extension package glossaries-extra, you just need to redefine \glsxtrabbrvpluralsuffix instead:

\renewcommand*{\glsxtrabbrvpluralsuffix}{\hspace{0.05556em}\glspluralsuffix}

The predefined styles use \glsxtrabbrvpluralsuffix within the definition of their custom plural suffix command. For example, the long-short-sc abbreviation style uses \glsxtrscsuffix which is defined as:

\newcommand*{\glsxtrscsuffix}{\glstextup{\glsxtrabbrvpluralsuffix}}

Alternatively, you could just modify this command instead since the problem is with the use of small caps.

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage{textcase}
\usepackage{fontspec}
\setmainfont{Linux Libertine O}

\usepackage[%
    xindy,
    acronym,
    smallcaps,
    shortcuts,
    nomain,
    ]{glossaries-extra}

\renewcommand*{\glsxtrscfont}[1]{\MakeTextLowercase{\textsc{#1}}}
\renewcommand*{\glsxtrscsuffix}{\hspace{0.05556em}\glstextup{\glsxtrabbrvpluralsuffix}}

\providecommand{\glsabbvfont}{\glsabbrvfont}% patch for pre 1.15

\makeglossaries

\setabbreviationstyle[acronym]{long-short-sc}

\newacronym{ode}{ODE}{ordinary differential equation}

\begin{document}

\printglossaries

Acronyms, such as \ac{ode}, blend in well with the text when typeset
in small
caps. Doesn't this \ac{ode} look good? Surely it is less obtrusive
than ODE.
However, we now have the problem with the plural: \acp{ode}. Is the
``s'' part of
the acronym or not? My professor doesn't see the difference between
a lower
case ``s'' and a small caps ``\textsc{s}''. Maybe this becomes more
clear when
adding a thin space, as in: \ac{ode}\,s. Or is there a better
solution?

\end{document}
  • Thank you Nicola, I will go with this solution for now. It is a tricky issue :-). – Ingo Aug 13 '14 at 16:03

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