Typography in Acme’s Menagerie

I like drop caps. I also like small caps. I especially like when they’re used together. It makes my writing feel important. 🙂

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As I was formatting Acme’s Menagerie for print, I knew I wanted special formatting to begin my chapters. I set up a Paragraph style (above), which was based on my main body style. The type is a beautiful Garamond 11/15 (11 point, 15 leading).  I removed the beginning line indent.

I searched high and low for a capitals font that would fit well with the story, which is about robotic animals. Unfortunately, animal fonts were mostly comical and didn’t fit the mood of the story. However, through perseverance, I found a great initials type based on old woodblock carvings. It’s not animals, but has a pseudo industrial feel. I decided to use that for my drop cap.

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I created a Character Style (above shows character style in paragraph style options) for the drop cap. I set the size to look pleasing but not overbearing when held up to the body text. Even so, I felt there needed to be a smooth transition from the large drop cap to the body text. So that’s where the small caps comes into play.

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I created another Character Style based on the main body text, but set to small caps (11 point, +25 tracking). When using small caps you should add extra tracking (more than your main body text) to give the glyphs room to breathe. In my paragraph style, I chose for the first four characters to be formatted as small caps.

Once I looked at the formatted paragraph, I noticed that the drop cap height didn’t align to the small caps, so on the drop cap character style I shifted the baseline down so that the top was flush with my small caps. For the chapter first paragraphs that began with left quotes (“), I simply deleted the left quote so the first character was a letter. (I could’ve hung the quotes, but that’s a story for another day.)

In the end, I like how the page formatting worked. Below is a snippet of a beginning section of a chapter. Notice how the drop cap spans four rows in height, how the left is aligned, and how the top is even with the small caps, which have extra space between the characters. Now if only the ebook version would format this well…

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Click cover to pick up a print copy of Acme’s Menagerie:

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