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Upper Case

Upper Case is one of the large alphabetic characters used as the first letter in writing or printing proper names and sometimes for emphasis

Upper case 101: formatting sentences

Upper case is one of two letter cases (upper and lower) which denote the use of only capital letters. Upper case is also called capitals, capital letters, caps, large letters, or majuscule (large lettering, in which all letters are generally the same height). Upper case is used in the written representation of some languages. (In preschool, children call upper case letters “big letters”.)

In typography, the main difference noted between the upper case and lower cases is not the shape and kind of letter, but the height of the letter. Letter case is usually dictated by the grammar of a language or by the conventions of a particular discipline, science, or type of education.

Learning to use upper case

Orthography is the study of the spelling system of a language, while typography is the study of a written language. In the case of upper case letters, the difference in how the letters are written varies mostly according to size, but can also vary widely in shape and dimension. This is clear in the following example of the English alphabet:

Upper case English alphabet: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Lower case English alphabet: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Note that in the upper case alphabet letters, or majuscules, the tops and bottoms of the letters are all perfectly aligned. However, in the lower case alphabet letters, or minuscules, the tops and bottoms of the letters vary widely. The lower case letters with pieces that extend lower than the base line of the text are called “descenders” and those that extend above the baseline of the text are called “ascenders.”

Typography: variety in shape and size

Numbers and letters can vary in shape, size, and height according to the font or typeface used, but upper case letters are usually very easy to pick out. In mathematics letter case often indicates the relationship between objects; the upper case letters may represent superior, main, or larger objects such as the set X, while lower case letters may represent subordinate or smaller objects such as y.

Engineering design and architectural drawings and are often labeled in all upper case letters, both for clarity and ease of reading. The small spaces in which letters must be used on these types of drawings often lend themselves better to upper case letters, as well.

The term “upper case” can also be written as two consecutive words connected with a hyphen; both are acceptable in written English. The terms upper case and lower case originated from the general layouts of the shallow drawers in typesetting factories, called “type cases.” The capital, or upper case letters where usually stored in a separate case than the lower case letters. The names caught on because they were associated with the relevant heights of the lettering pieces.

A paleographic majuscule is any script in which the letters have very few or very short ascenders or descenders, or none at all. An example of this is the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 or the Book of Kells (an illuminated Irish manuscript of the four New Testament Gospels also known as Leabhar Cheanannais).

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