Small caps

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Example of small caps in a book title

Small caps are lower case letters in the shape of upper case letters . They are used for emphasis in typography instead of normal lowercase letters ( example instead of example). There are also false small caps and Versalschrift of capital letters (Example).

In the Antiqua font, uppercase and lowercase letters are mixed. The capital letters are based on the forms of the Capitalis monumentalis and the lower case letters on those of the humanistic minuscule , which in turn is based on the Carolingian minuscule . If you give the glyphs of the lowercase letters the forms of the capitalis, but otherwise all the properties (such as line width and gray value ) of the lowercase letters, they are called small caps. The English term small caps spread in German-speaking countries since around 1990 through English-language software such as QuarkXPress , PageMaker and other desktop publishing programs.

Small caps height

In German-language typography, small caps have x-height . In Anglo-Saxon typography, the small caps are about 10% larger than the common ones, i.e. between the x and capital letters. The OpenType font technology contains two features for accessing the small caps: Small Caps for the 10% enlarged small caps and Petite Caps for the small caps in the normal common size.

Real and false small caps

Dummy text , on the left with real small caps and ligatures ten to twelve point , on the right with false small caps in Microsoft Word . The font and all other settings are identical.

If there are no real small caps in a work font, word processing programs can create false small caps by scaling capital letters. However, this practice is frowned upon in typography, as these characters are either too large (see the right-hand column in the illustration) or too light. In addition, capital letters and false small caps have different, non-harmonious stroke widths. They are not as balanced as real small caps (for real small caps see the left column of the illustration). In both cases, they are immediately noticeable when viewed from a distance.

This is why there are almost always special font styles for small caps in the font family of an expert set: normal, italic and bold small caps. With OpenType fonts, real small caps are often integrated as separate glyphs in the respective font style. They can then be called up in word processing programs using the corresponding OpenType functions.

Small caps should be slightly blocked (0.5–1  point ) if the font itself does not allow this. Compensation is not necessary in the work set .


In the early days of letterpress printing , italic typefaces were not considered to belong to the same family as normal typefaces . Where italics are predominantly used in modern typesetting for typeface , initially only small caps were available in addition to blocking . Today, small caps are mostly used for names and occasionally for the first few words of a paragraph after a heading.

A ß is represented by the large eszett (ẞ) in small caps or, often as a substitute, by SS , if the font does not provide the large eszett. The representation as SZ in cases in which confusion is possible, such as in mass (MASSE) and mass (MASZE), is no longer provided since the spelling reform of 1996 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence