About nouns capitalization in German

julienbidoret's picture

Hello everybody.
Please excuse my poor english.

I have a problem related to type-composition for a multilanguage website.
I designed some icons that goes with a dynamic label. These icons are drawn to fit the x-height of the word that follows. In french, english, spanish, etc., I have no special problem, i set the label in lowercase.

But my german translator doesn't agree. He says that german nouns should start with an uppercase -- and he is right, as regards to pure spelling. I would like to know if a forced lowercase composition would be admitted in german, if we also take care of the graphic dimensions of the couple icon/label. Or if that would be a too big spelling mistake.

Have you experienced any similar problems ? and found solutions...

-- In that same post, sorry : Do you know a good reference for multilinguistic typography ? I mean especially typographic rules and composition. I am desperate with seven languages to serve : french, english, italian, spanish, german, catalan and even polski.

Thank you for your help.


Andreas Krautwald's picture

there's a german movement to write everything in lc: http://www.kleinschreiben.de/

„wir schreiben alles klein, denn wir sparen damit zeit. außerdem: warum 2 alfabete, wenn eins dasselbe erreicht? warum großschreiben, wenn man nicht groß sprechen kann?”.

Renko's picture

Hmm, difficult. Your translator is right of course. But it depends on how »innovative« your client is, because I see often german advertisings with all-lowercase. But that's not right orthographically, but looks nice in some ways. But be aware: If your client wants the navigation to be spelled right, you are on your own.

If you want to be safe:
• Use all uppercase (but be careful with that, doesn't look good with many fonts)
• use Unicase-fonts.

hrant's picture

> I would like to know if a forced lowercase
> composition would be admitted in german

Well, Aicher did it in his book.
Great book, lousy idea. Equality is death.

This is a rare case where a unicase font might indeed be useful.


dan_reynolds's picture

Interestingly enough, in Aicher's book, the German text is all lowercase, but the English translation running along on the same pages is set in Upper can Lowercase.

julienbidoret's picture

Thank you for your answers.
> use all uppercase
> use Unicase-fonts
Hum. All design choices have been done already. I don't even have the choice of the typeface. The question of how »innovative« (« innovative », "inovative" ;-) I and my client can be is the real point.
We went to a consensus, keeping main navigation items in lowercase, but setting all icons/labels in a correct german spelling. Neither the best choice, nor the worst; something between.

My problems with composition remains. I'll try to collect some sources by myself, but if you have some, ( in : english, italian, spanish, german, catalan and polish !), that would be a great help.

Just related to quotation marks and especially oriented to webdesign, here is one : http://acjs.net/weblog/2005/06/10/language_specific_styling_quotation_ma...

Thank you all.

hrant's picture

An previous thread you might be interested in reading:


Renko's picture

Hmm, can't help with »international« sites*) for german typography rules, but have a look in the Typowiki from typografie.info for german »rules«.

BTW, quotation marks in german are made 9966 or guillemets like this » «.

*) maybe Dan can help out here …?

dan_reynolds's picture

The kleinschreiben Text is from the Bauhaus Dessau letterhead, design by Herbert Bayer around 1925, I think. I don't think it has ever really caught on. Presuming that all other German text on the website will be in U&lc, it doesn't make much sense for the navigation to be all lowercase, I think. Consistency and the readers' expectations are more important than personal design vision…

cerulean's picture

Depending on the typeface, you might be able to satisfactorily capitalize a word with a smallcap.

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