How to Format a Drop Cap

An e-mail exchange from July 2000 with the editor of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Q: Does the 14th edition of MLA mention the typographical feature known as drop-cap, which magazines almost always use to begin an article or a new series of paragraphs.

Also, if the drop-cap is used on a one-letter word, should a space follow that word? If yes, the result comes across as poor, spacey typography. If not, the result appears cluttered. What does MLA recommend?

A: MLA mentions the drop initial at 18.55, although it does not address your question.

A space must follow a drop cap of one letter. Some fonts will work better than others in this situ-ation. A good designer will look at the chapter openings to determine whether a drop initial is going to work well for that particular copy and abandon the idea if the results are awkward.

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