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This question is related to the questions Small digits for small caps? and Using small caps for abbreviations


When reading a text where initialisms are frequently used, the initialisms tend to stand out from the rest of the text unless they are typeset with small caps. For this reason, I prefer to typeset all initialisms with small caps. However, when various product names, software, type designation, serial numbers, etc. have strange combinations of initialisms, numbers and regular names, it becomes a challenge to define consistent rules while also ensuring that the result is visually pleasing. I've compiled a list of examples below.

\documentclass[11pt]{article}

\begin{document}

\begin{description}
    \item[standalone initialisms] \hfill \\
        TEX $\rightarrow$ \textsc{tex} % typographic ecstatic experience, in case you're wondering
    \item[initialisms that are names] \hfill \\
        TEXLAB $\rightarrow$ \textsc{Texlab} / \textsc{texlab} / Texlab
    \item[standalone initialisms in (product) names] \hfill \\
        Lion Inc.\ TEX $\rightarrow$ Lion Inc.\ \textsc{Tex} / Lion Inc.\ \textsc{tex}
    \item[standalone initialisms and numbers] \hfill \\
        TEX 3000 $\rightarrow$ \textsc{Tex} 3000 / \textsc{tex} 3000 / \textsc{Tex} \oldstylenums{3000} / \textsc{tex} \oldstylenums{3000}
    \item[names that mix caps and lowercase letters] \hfill \\
        TEXLion $\rightarrow$ \textsc{Tex}Lion / \textsc{Texl}ion \hfill \\
        LionTEX $\rightarrow$ Lion\textsc{tex} / Lion\textsc{Tex}
    \item[names that mix caps and numbers (within the same word)] \hfill \\
        LA2014T3X $\rightarrow$ \textsc{La\oldstylenums{2014}t\oldstylenums{3}x} / \textsc{la\oldstylenums{2014}t\oldstylenums{3}x} / \textsc{La}2014\textsc{t}3\textsc{x} / \textsc{la}2014\textsc{t}3\textsc{x}
    \item[names that mix caps, numbers and lowercase letters] \hfill \\
        TXi42LaTEX3 $\rightarrow$ \textsc{Tx}i42La\textsc{Tex}3 / \textsc{Tx}i42La\textsc{tex}3 / \textsc{Tx}i\oldstylenums{42}La\textsc{Tex}\oldstylenums{3}
\end{description}

\end{document}

output

Should the names always start with an uppercase letter? Should initialisms within a name (ref. the LionTEX example) also start with an uppercase letter? What about the numbers? The small caps numbers look bad, so I'd prefer to avoid using them. And either way the numbers are the same size as regular caps. Should I resize the numbers? If so, how? Or should I use \oldstylenums? And if I use different sizes/types of numbers, when should I use the smaller numbers, and when should I use the regular numbers?

I would love to read your input on this.

  • 2
    Is it really related to TeX and LaTeX, or is it a general typography problem? The latter would maybe be more suitable on graphicdesign.stackexchange.com (they have a typography tag for this kind of questions). – T. Verron Sep 18 '14 at 14:07
  • @T.Verron: It's mostly a general typography question, but the same is the case for one of the related questions. There's also a typography tag here on TeX.SX. I could, perhaps, ask both places. – eiterorm Sep 18 '14 at 15:51
  • The first linked question is definitely about TeX ("how can I...?" instead of "should I...?"), but the second one is indeed walking on a very thin edge. In my opinion what "saved" it is the end of the question, specifically about how to implement a consistent policy using TeX. I'd still call it off-topic. – T. Verron Sep 18 '14 at 15:59
  • I see that graphicdesign.sx is 3 years 8 months old, that is if I'm not wrong mid-january 2011, that is roughly when the second linked question was asked. Maybe it wasn't off-topic back then because there wasn't any better place to ask? – T. Verron Sep 18 '14 at 16:01
  • 1
    The tag description is indeed too vague imo, and the second of your linked questions could have been flagged as off-topic back then (but it is probably too late now). For the rest, let me rephrase, it wasn't clear: it's not that typography, by default, is off-topic, it's that typography is not by default on-topic. A non-tex-related typography question could interest a reader who has no idea what tex is, and that's why it is off-topic here. On the other hand, a question dealing with tex's typographical features, even if it additionnally features typographical advice, is primarily aimed at tex. – T. Verron Sep 18 '14 at 20:03
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i think this isn't really on-topic here, but here are some opinions based on what is done in tugboat.

  • look at the web site or documentation for the name source to see how the string is used there, and how caps are applied by the owner in different contexts. if there is never a distinction between caps/lowercase, don't apply an initial cap. "IBM" looks just plain silly if the "I" is cap height and the "BM" are small caps.

  • use lining figures. oldstyle figures look good only with true lowercase. if the lining figures look too large, then "smallify" them, setting them one size smaller. this usually has to be a manual operation (look for a package that provides a \smaller operation), but the improvement in appearance is worth the effort.

  • if, like the tugboat editorial crew, you find that the "provided" small caps "disappear" in ordinary text (say, because their height is equal to the x-height), consider setting your acronyms slightly larger -- if 11pt small caps are available, that might be an option for 10pt text; or do as tugboat has done, and use "full caps" a size smaller (9pt caps in 10pt text, etc.). (look into the file ltugboat.cls to see how \acro is defined; ltugboat.cls is on ctan and also in tex live.) aside: the only almost-x-height small caps i can remember seeing that look distinct are the ones used by the economist; you can even distinguish between lowercase "s" and small cap "s" standing alone, and the small cap "o" is a delight!

  • define a command for every initialism that is used more than once. then you can tinker with it easily if it "doesn't work". and for less frequent instances, define something like tugboat's \acro so they will all be treated consistently. (there is an extensive list of \acro-ized commands in ltugboat.cls that can be looked at for ideas.)

  • when you've achieved something that you are satisfied "looks good" (that will always be subjective), build a little package and use it consistently.

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