I am typesetting my thesis and am enjoying the use of small caps for initialisms. They look great in the middle of a sentence, but I'm unsure what to do if they fall at the start of a sentence.

Different small caps options

Currently I'm doing (1) and if I end up writing an initialism at the start of a sentence, I reword to avoid that. This sometimes ends up contorting the sentence a little, so I'd like to figure out my options if I want to leave it at the start.

(2) just looks wrong to me.

Is (3) common? It looks a bit like a normal word that has had small caps applied to it.

(4) seems inconsistent with the two different presentations in the one sentence.

(5) is me giving up on small caps altogether.

What should I do?

  • Personally I'd go with #1
    – SaturnsEye
    Oct 6 '14 at 14:00
  • I'd vote #3 but, in the end, it's personal preference.
    – DA01
    Oct 7 '14 at 0:26
  • I am sure nobody cares, but to follow up: In the end I felt I had to give up on the small caps and went with (5). My graduation is next week, so it can't have been a terrible choice. :-)
    – heycam
    Oct 20 '15 at 4:37
  • There is a nice discussion about this on tex.stackexchange recommending #1 then #2 with some justification.
    – mforbes
    Jun 28 '20 at 18:52

There is a simple rule: Each sentence starts with a capital letter.

So you should start each sentence with a capital letter. You can rephrase the sentence, if you do not want to capitalise the small-caps-word. (BTW: I think that would be the best, so your (1)). Or You use your (3) with a capitalised first letter.

  • 1
    This is very much the same reason one should not start a sentence with a number, as in: 1 vote up. Contrast with: 1 Vote up. / You get 1 upvote.
    – Jongware
    Oct 9 '14 at 21:58

Wow, the small caps look colossally annoying to my eye. If you have your heart set on them in the middle of a sentence, then go with option 4. Option 3 looks absolutely wrong. Treat "CSS" as a unit and use full caps for the whole thing.

  • 2
    Small caps for acronyms are a standard style for many publications. 'CSS' is a rather unique one in that the letterforms are nearly identical for both upper and lower case (which is what, I think, makes it particular odd to see at the beginning of a sentence with a proper capital)
    – DA01
    Oct 7 '14 at 0:29
  • 1
    Please pick up a print version of The Economist and notice that they always use small caps for initialisms and the like. Notice also how attractively NOT IN YOUR FACE that this is, unlike this sentence.
    – tchrist
    Dec 30 '14 at 23:57

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