You might have seen it. That attention demanding large capital letter at the top of a block of text.
That’s a drop cap.
A drop cap is the first letter of a paragraph and it is of much bigger size than the regular text that follows. It is also dubbed as an initial.
Look at the ancient drop cap below. Notice how it “drops down’ to cover the few lines following the first one. Yes, drop caps have existed for more than 2,000 years. This image is more than 550 years old.
Today, desktop publishing makes use of drop caps. Websites a little less so because rendering them on different screens is a problem. Even then, you can use Cascading Style Sheets with HTML. WordPress even has a plug-in for drop caps.
But how do you create a drop cap in Microsoft Word? There are a few creative ways you can format or embed drop caps in MS Word to enhance the text. And they are all drop dead easy.
Add a Text Drop Cap in a Word Document
Insert a drop cap with the dedicated drop cap button in Microsoft Word 2016. The ease of inserting a drop cap makes it a 2-click process.
Select the first character of a paragraph which you want to stylize with a drop cap.
Go to the Ribbon > Insert tab. From the Text group, click the button for Drop Cap. The dropdown has three options for three types of drop caps.
Dropped: create a drop cap that fits within the length of your paragraph.
In margin: Insert a drop cap along the length of the paragraph but position it outside the paragraph in the margin.
None: Use this to remove a drop cap by again selecting it.
The drop cap “drops” three lines as a default.
You can change the default options for the drop cap before you insert the drop cap. Select Drop Cap Options from the drop-down menu. As you can see from the graphic below, the options give you control over the font of the drop cap, how many lines of normal text the letter will drop, and the distance from the text on the right side of the letter.
Click OK to finalize the appearance of the drop cap.
A text-box envelops the drop cap. Click just outside the drop cap to display the cross hairs. Select the text-box and drag any of the handles to change the appearance of the drop cap on the fly.
For instance, drag the middle handle on the right to change the space between the drop cap and rest of the paragraph. Or, drag the lower middle handle to resize the span covered by the drop cap.
You can also just as easily right-click on the text-box and use the menu to go back into the options.
Use an Image as a Drop Cap in a Word Document
Small image files can also be embedded as drop caps. They are visually more striking than text drop caps because they are more intricate and colorful than fonts. You can make your own graphic file or use the ones that are available from Microsoft.
One of the subtle changes in Microsoft Word 2016 is Online Pictures which is a new avatar of the old Clipart since Office 2013. The old Clip Art had a good collection of alphabet graphics, but you can expand your sources by using the included Bing image search.
Do note that image files may be limited by user permissions. Use the Bing search box to limit your search to Creative Commons and do follow the attribution requirements. By default, the Bing-powered images provided are licensed under the Creative Commons via which you can use, share, or modify the images for both personal and commercial purposes.
Once you have added a chosen image as a drop cap in your document, drag the corner handles to resize the letter around the surrounding text. Keeping the SHIFT key pressed while dragging the handles, preserves the proportion of the letter.
But, often I find this to be extremely limiting. Stick to true type fonts.
Use Text wrap to control how the look of the image and the text.
Select the image letter, and then click Format on the Picture Tools menu. Select Text Wrapping in the Arrange group and experiment with the options if you need to. The default In Line with Text usually works fine.
You can do the same with a right-click on the image and choosing the options under Text Wrapping (the little arc icon).
Tweak the look slightly by horizontally aligning it to the Text > Text Wrapping > More Layout Options.
A Few Creative Uses of Drop Caps in a Word Document
Before you read some of the do’s and don’ts for drop caps in the next section, let’s look at few of the other stylistic tweaks you can try on the drop cap letter.
The text formatting features can be used to change the look. For example, you can change the color, size, or add a text effect to make that first alphabet stand out.
You can also use more than one letter for your drop cap. Place your cursor beside the drop cap letter and type the next letters. But that doesn’t look so good.
Drop caps can be visually enhanced by using elegant fonts. For instance, Vivaldi or Old English Text, both should be on your system’s list of installed fonts.
There are many gorgeous high-quality fonts available on the web. Select a font which goes with the theme of your document.
If your text is arranged in 2-3 columns, try a drop cap with the first paragraph in each column.
Making your own resume? Maybe, there is a case for using a drop cap to showcase your creative side.
Some Do’s and Don’ts for Drop Caps
Tempted to throw in a drop cap here and there? Please remember these points…
- Drop caps should be sparingly used. It is best used for dramatic effect just once where the text starts.
- The attractiveness of drop caps is such that even a single use calls out attention to the text that follows. A bit of care with that first letter and you may just find readability improving.
- The style of a drop cap varies with the document. A professional document does well with a minimalist drop cap using cleaner fonts. A more casual document and you can let your creative juices flow with your choice of formatting.
What Do You Think About Drop Caps?
Subtle use of drop caps can really help to jazz up your documents. We have talked about its use in Microsoft Word, but drop caps can be part of every type of document that gets written or designed. You can use drop caps to deck up a cover page in Microsoft Word. That’s quite an impact for a single letter.
Designer & illustrator Jessica Hische has this neat project called Daily Drop Cap where she posts a stylized drop cap for general use in any web document. You can also check out her lettering class on Skillshare and understand how to create just one beautiful letter.
Do you use drop caps? What creative use have you found for them in your Microsoft Word document or any other?
Image Credit: Brian Burger via Shutterstock.com