Re. Small caps for acronyms

Subject: Re. Small caps for acronyms
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 13:36:15 LCL

I agree that small caps are much more elegant for acronyms
than standard capital letters, but they do pose problems.
As a few folks have already noted, it's a fair bit of extra
labor to select all occurrences of the acronym and change
them (unless your software has a really nifty "replace text
style" option in the search and replace dialog box). I also
find that the acronyms look awkward at the beginning of a
sentence, particularly if you use a regular (large) cap for
the first letter of the acronym.

There's also one significant gotcha if you move the text
between software packages (e.g., to move it online): the
translation often loses the information that defines the
text as small caps, and you end up with an all-lowercase
acronym! This occurs because most software either uses a
specific font (e.g., the "expert version") or creates the
small caps on the fly using some algorithm. When you move
to a new application that implements small caps
differently, boom! (_Not_ BOOM! <grin>)

It's often simpler to just adjust the font size manually,
dropping the size of the acronym's caps by a few points to
produce something aesthetic. This will offend typographical
purists (since the optical weight of a small caps font has
been adjusted to match its reduced size), but the trick
works well enough for readers (like me) who aren't
sophisticated enough to spot the difference without looking
carefully. The main gotcha is that transferring to an
application that doesn't preserve font size information may
not work... but at least you have an all-caps acronym.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca <--- should be FERIC, but don't
tell the boss!

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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