I know many scientific publications tend to write the names of authors, or names of people in general, in small caps. I quite like this idea, since it helps readers not to try and understand a word which is a name and as such has no deeper understandable meaning. So far, so good. But what about situations where the name of a person is included in an adjective, forming what (as I just learned) is sometimes called a proper adjective?

The example I have in mind is the term “Euclidean geometry”. What would be the best, most widely accepted or suggested, way to typeset this?

  1. No small caps at all?
  2. Small caps for the whole “Euclidean”?
  3. Or small caps only for “Euclid”, with normal “ean” suffixed to that?
  • 5
    Number 1 would be my choice. I can't feasibly see how the other two choices with do anything to improve readability. – Scott Sep 4 '13 at 17:15
  • I wouldn't put anything in small caps unless it's in the middle of some biographical section about the person in question. Otherwise, why call attention to the name? – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Sep 4 '13 at 18:14
  • Why would you emphasize adjectives to begin with? – DA01 Sep 5 '13 at 16:05
  • @DA01: Emphasizing adjectives is not my aim, staying consistent is. The primary motivation is distinguishing names, particularly less apparent ones, so that they can be seen as such. If I do it for those, I should do it for all names, and if I do it for all names, I might consider it consistent to do the same if a name occurs as part of another word. I'm unsure (hence the question), and the majority of voters seems to agree with Scott about the most consistent approach. – MvG Sep 5 '13 at 16:42
  • @MvG makes sense. But based on that logic, an adjective is not a name, so you would not use smallcaps for it. – DA01 Sep 5 '13 at 17:24

I would not put anything in small caps, especially partial words.

There is no logic to having any word ever be partially small caps.

Since proper adjectives are not proper names, the first character should be uppercase, but nothing small capped.

In the end using small caps for your scenarios would not improve readability and ultimately, that is the very the reason for any use of small caps.


The decision is determined by the publication's Style Sheet/Guide. Scientific publications have such a document. Ask for it by name. Only attempt to change convention for your ego if there aren't any established ones. For generic style sheets, try a search or go by MLA, Chicago, or Yale recommendations and guidance. Ignore your ego on this one.

  • For Yale I only found a Web Style Guide. Chicago I've heard about before, will grab a copy from our library. The MLA books aren't available there. If I find anything about the font to use for names in the Chicago manual, I'll be happy with your answer. – MvG Sep 4 '13 at 20:47
  • Got a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, and found no discussion of the use of small caps for names. – MvG Sep 5 '13 at 16:38
  • @MvG No? Then don't. I sometimes use owl.english.purdue.edu as a source although it isn't a style manual per se. – Stan Sep 5 '13 at 17:54

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