I propose that a new formatting directive be added to access the font’s small capitals.
<smcaps>some text</smcaps> would work, but I encourage discussion on any syntactic variant that appeals to you. The coolest thing is that since this is a simple matter of invoking the ᴄss
font-variant: small-caps style spec, it is super-easy to implement. It would give better-looking pages for next to no effort.
If you wonder why this is needed, please see whatever the current word-of-the-day is at the Oxford English Dictionary at the time you read this. I will not link to the actual page, because it switches daily. But click through the ᴡᴏᴛᴅ link to see how real entries are supposed to look. You will see that the ᴏᴇᴅ uses small capitals for headwords, for authors in citations, and for the major volume in Roman numerals for multivolume works.
This is just one example; many, many reference works one would like to cite here use small capitals. It’s not just the ᴏᴇᴅ.
If you wonder why typographers consider small caps as integral a part of a font as italic, bold, or text figures, see Robert Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style. I’m sure that ᴇʟ&ᴜ is using Georgia because it’s the most widely available font that supports text figures, as one of course wants to have. Like text figures, small capitals are an often-missed by critical component of good typography.
If you wonder why one cannot just use the Unicode small capitals, it’s because
- there are not very many of them;
- the Georgia font used here and in ᴇʟ&ᴜ proper does not even support them and so causes infelicitous fontsubbing;
- if you look at this posting from several different browsers and/or operating systems, you will get very different results
- some are only four or five yeras old in the spec, which means that even alterate serif fonts may not yet support the Unicode code points, as vendors are especially poor at this.
Let me show you how poorly Unicode small capitals are typically rendered by browsers. Consider this
tr statement from the Perl language:
If you think that is bad, just imagine writing “ᴀ ᴁ ʙ ᴄ ᴅ ᴆ ᴇ ⱻ ꜰ ɢ ʛ ʜ ɪ ᵻ ᴊ ᴋ ʟ ᴌ ᴍ ɴ ᴏ ɶ ᴐ ᴕ ᴘ ʀ ᴚ ꝶ ꜱ ᴛ ᴜ ᵾ ꟺ ᴠ ᴡ ʏ ᴢ ᴣ ᴦ ᴧ ᴨ ᴩ ᴪ ᴫ” in the normal serif roman. It looks horrible. The ᴄss font-variant fixes all that.
However, even without using a modern serif font like Arno Pro (standard with Adobe ᴄs3) or Alfios (a very nice free font by George Douros), and just sticking with simple things like Georgia (preferred for text figures) or Times New Roman, if you used the ᴄss markup then the browser would use the right small caps without needing to mess around with funny Unicode, or worry about searches getting messed up. The browser even emulates small caps for fonts lacking them.
It would make our pages look better, and it would make our citations more accurate. It seems only fair and right that ᴇʟ&ᴜ be able to accurately cite standard reference works. Here is one example where I do so, but I used Unicode small caps only for Roman numeral volumes in the citations. I used simple bold where the ᴏᴇᴅ has small caps for its headwords, and I used the regular roman instead of small caps for the authors’ names in the citations.
It would look much better, and be more correct, to use actual small capitals when accurately citing references. You would hope that ᴇʟ&ᴜ would be able to accurately cite standard reputable reference works without all these lamentable compromises. And because of ᴄss, it would be very easy to implement and not risk harming clarity, portability, or searchability at all the way all alteratives do.
I have no particular attachment to the
<smcaps>some text</smcaps> syntax; it’s just one idea. I realize that by making it ʜᴛᴍʟ-ish it would work only in the main text, not in commentary, but I was unable to think of something that would work in the markdown within comments that did not risk break backwards compatibility. Perhaps others can come up with a better syntax.
Here’s a screen grab that shows how the ᴏᴇᴅ uses small caps in all three different ways:
It uses them for headwords, for authors’ names in citations, and for major volumes in roman numerals in citations. It’s the first that are especially useful, although the second is nice to have. The third doesn’t matter so much, although it’s nice to be able to make a complete citation.
They do all this through the ᴄss trick I mentioned earlier; it’s really easy to do.