A lettrine or drop cap is a large initial letter (usually with some illustration) at the start of a chapter in a book.

In the English language, which is preferable: "lettrine" or "drop cap"? Incidentally, is it correct to indent a lettrine?

  • 3
    (1) Lettrine is not an English word. (2) This is a question of style, not language usage, and as such, is off-topic for this site.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:23
  • Hi user02138. I think that your question would be a much better fit for Writers.SE, as this has nothing to do with language usage itself.
    – user10893
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:26
  • 1
    How is this question or this question any different?
    – user02138
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:44
  • Or perhaps this question....
    – user02138
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:50
  • 4
    @simchona (and to the OP) The truly correct place for this question is graphicdesign.stackexchange.com: typography is a matter of design, not the English language or writing. Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 14:27

2 Answers 2


Non-hanging drop caps are indeed indented in the sense that they don't hang outside of the paragraph: the left side of the initial letter or letters does align with the left edge of the rest of the paragraph.

Modern Drop Cap
Modern Drop Cap

Hanging drop caps hang out to the left of the paragraph and are less common in print; I suspect the rarity is primarily due to the fact that they're more difficult to create than indented drop caps when using modern page layout software. Conversely, hanging drop caps are (generally) easier than non-hanging ones on web pages and so may be seen there more often.

Hanging Drop Cap
Hanging Drop Cap

Just in case: if you're asking if the drop cap should be indented farther to the right than required to make the left edge of the paragraph line up with the rest of the paragraph -- the way regular paragraphs are commonly indented in books and periodicals -- the answer is no, that is rarely appropriate.

Indented Drop Cap
Indented Drop Cap (uncommon)


Apparently not:

Home > drop cap drop cap
In desktop publishing, the first letter of a paragraph that is enlarged to "drop" down two or more lines, as in the next paragraph. Drop caps are often seen at the beginning of novels, where the top of the first letter of the first word lines up with the top of the first sentence and drops down to the four or fifth sentence.

So, even in modern times, drop caps would look like this

To give an image to see what I mean by lining up with the top of the first sentence, take a look at this:

enter image description here

See how the drop cap lines up with the top of the next sentence, so that the drop cap is not indented, but lined up.

  • 1
    It's unclear to me how you're interpreting the bolded section of your quote to mean that the letter isn't indented. It's saying that the top of the initial letter lines up with the top of the first line. It doesn't address the left side of the letter at all. Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 6:28

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