Apostrophe in Small Caps

ncaleffi's picture

There is a fact that frequentely happens when using the apostrophe with small caps. When the text is set in all small caps the apostrophe seems a bit out of the way - on a level too high - so I manually adjust it, like this:

I wonder if, typographically speaking, the third example is an error. But an alternate small caps apostrophe, paired to the x-height, could be useful if available in the typeface glyphs palette.

johnnydib's picture

The first thing that came to mind is that in U&lc the apostrophe is up there, so in big and small caps it should stay up.
The third example however is really an AllCaps setting so it makes sense that everything aligns. It certainly looks better than 2 but 1 is perfectly fine.

A big question here: Did the pioneer small caps faces have adjusted apostrophes and titling umlauts etc... In other words is small caps an optically adjusted set of caps?

Nick Shinn's picture

This is a question that may be addressed in the "all small caps" feature of OpenType fonts.

What I've done is to leave "normal" punctuation in the standard Small Caps feature (smcp), and add what I consider to be necessary small-cap-height punctuation characters in the All Small Caps (c2sc) feature.

So I usually provide matching small cap height Question and Bang, but leave quote marks and parentheses at full height.
I like the way that looks; for a rationalization, I would say that small caps are small on the page, and you don't want parentheses getting muddled up with capitals, looking like letters rather than punctuation, and apostrophe getting lost.

It might be different if you really tracked out the letter spacing, old school style, but that's not the default look for small caps these days.

As I say this is just my preference and practice.
What do others think/do?

nina's picture

I was wondering about the apostrophe thing too.

Nick, about the parentheses: I think SC-height ones can be useful; I used them recently in a book, for quoting authors/publication years – I felt they make the whole «parenthesized» statement stand out less: http://typophile.com/files/parens_prefinal_5118.gif (in thread http://typophile.com/node/59133 )
But dunno, that might just be me – it was kind of an experiment actually. :)

Nick Shinn's picture

Nina, I think that looks OK for the letters, because the parentheses do in fact protrude beyond the cap and baseline, but I wonder about the old style figures. On the other hand, the default parentheses in this face are really long, so would perhaps overpower All Small Caps. And small-cap-height figures wouldn't be right in mixed U&lc text.
This stuff is tricky and involves compromise. IMO you made the right decision, after due experiment.

nina's picture

Thank you Nick. I might have considered SC numerals (for use in those parentheses only), but there weren't any.

I hope I didn't derail/kill this thread – I was hoping to learn about the apostrophe question too. Doesn't anyone else have opinions/experiences about this?

johnnydib's picture

Did early small caps fonts have numerals in them? If so were they lining or old-style?
I know a few fonts nowadays offer small caps numerals which is definitely a great feature, But in a typeface like the one Nina used here the small caps are at x-height and small caps punctuation is designed that way too. So the old-style numerals look really nice in those parentheses the problem is when the small caps are bigger than x-height. 'Petite' caps are another great feature. It's amazing how type designers keep making everyone else's life easier.

CurveDoctor's picture

Nicola, in my opinion your third example is an error indeed. The apostrophe should be as in the second example or just a bit lower than that. Imagine a line with a comma, a descending Q, accented letters, even in all small caps setting there might be a lot of glyphs ascending and descending. The apostophe needs a bit of space to breathe.

Mark Simonson's picture

It used to be standard practice for lettering artists to raise the apostrophe and quote marks in all caps settings.

dezcom's picture

I do something very similar to what Nick posted but I have a complete set of punctuation for all small caps, Parens, apostrophe, quotes, ampersand, even the currency. Like Nick, it turns on with c2sc.


ncaleffi's picture

"in my opinion your third example is an error indeed. The apostrophe should be as in the second example or just a bit lower than that"

When setting the apostrophe aligend to the x-height, I'm thinking about some very specific typographic setting; in particular, a title, or a display text, set in all small caps with very tight leading. Like this:

The matter here is avoiding the SC apostrophe, commas, etc, to clash with the above or bottom text line. I wouldn't use an apostrophe set that way in a default line of current text (say, in a book page). The thing can be adjust manually, of course, but I was suggesting that having some alternate SC glyphs, with aligned height, would be useful.

riccard0's picture

This example is just an all caps setting. If the graphic designer likes more the small caps shapes, they would adjust their apostrophes to their own liking.

ncaleffi's picture

"This example is just an all caps setting"

Not exactly - it is set in all small caps, and the apostrophe has been manually aligned to the small caps height: that's why I was suggesting an "automated" way to go like that, with an alternate glyph.

nina's picture

I think what Riccardo was saying (and I would agree) is that that is an all-caps situation with the small caps used instead of full caps, probably for æsthetic reasons. But it's not a typical small caps setting, for which small caps should be optimized; and in a more typical small caps setting – i.e. embedded in running (mixed-case) text – the consensus seems to be that the apostrophe should not be completely lining with the small cap height. So maybe what you show could be a .titl alternate or something.

dberlow's picture

>I wonder if, typographically speaking, the third example is an error.

All small caps, all the time? I think the third example is otherwise an error that is comfortable because it is congruent with the compromise that is the quote alignments for uppercase. Multicase alignment of quotes works easier the bigger the x-ht, and less so the smaller the x-ht (apos. shows first and worst with a small x-ht, I think because the back end of ' before s, e.g. is so open. With small caps floating between the cases, quotes and small caps should just work with the multicase alignment if x-ht is otherwise.

>It used to be standard practice for lettering artists to raise the apostrophe and quote marks in all caps settings.

I like that, but am assuming one line of text. I don't think even OpenType can detect this, so a special set of high quotes, as much as I'd love to make them sometimes, would require decidedly manual employment I think, (as perhaps small cap aligned for all small caps all the time, quotes would need to be employed?).


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