Some typesetting styles use small caps on surnames, e.g., "Mᴀᴏ Zedong's Little Red Book". If the surname comes last, however, I'm not sure whether or not the possessive apostrophe-ess should be styled with small caps or without. Here is an example as an image with fonts that make the difference visually clear!

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The second version seems typographically better, but the first seems more semantically correct.


There is a related discussion here from a "Graphic Design" point of view: "Small caps in names as part of an adjective". The top-rated answer there says, among other things:

There is no logic to having any word ever be partially small caps.

That advice would apply to contractions, since they are words.

However, if small-caps is considered to bind to names, then "DICK'S" could -- no matter how improbably -- be parsed as a surname that contains an apostrophe.

According to comments on this other question I've referenced, style manuals do not discuss the issue.


Here is a sentence to which the answer could be applied. Note, this person has a two-part surname.

"Since Patricia Law Hatcher’s Producing a Quality Family History was published in 1996, there have been some major changes in the way typography and publishing affect genealogists."

closed as primarily opinion-based by Davo, David, Edwin Ashworth, Mari-Lou A, Phil Sweet Sep 19 '17 at 0:03

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Follow the style guide or editorial advice of the organization for which you are writing. If their preferences are unclear, pick one and be consistent. – Davo Sep 11 '17 at 11:04
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    Yup, this is a design question, not a question about the English Language. – Max Williams Sep 11 '17 at 11:38
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    @JoeCorneli "should I use a small S or a big S" has absolutely nothing to do with semantics at all. – Max Williams Sep 11 '17 at 11:50
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    Similar: Possessives of a title in italics – sumelic Sep 11 '17 at 17:50
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about language. – Mari-Lou A Sep 18 '17 at 22:25

Placing a surname in ALL CAPS or small caps is not an attribute of the English language. It is sometimes used by organizations that need to clearly differentiate the family name from "the rest of a person's name." You'll see it regularly used by genealogical societies. It's use basically means, "use this word or phrase for indexing."

That being said, typography is a thing of beauty, not the rules of English. As the comments mention, use your organization's style rules. If there are none, then I agree, the apostrophe-S should be set in the same way as the word it modifies.

  • Putting an entire name in small caps is the standard for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, according to this page. (I've seen that style in academic publications too.) But I'm not able to find their guidance about possessives. – Joe Corneli Sep 12 '17 at 12:03

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