Self-publishing paperbacks: faux fonts and small caps

There’s a wealth of guidance online to help you lay out your book manuscript. One of the terms you will come across is ‘faux’ meaning your word processor (or typesetting software) can’t access a properly designed glyph and so has to fake one, possibly with ugly results. (A ‘glyph’, by the way, is simply one character or symbol in a font) . In this extract from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition’ I explain more about faux fonts, dispel a few rumors, and explain how to use true small caps in Microsoft Word (although you might howl in protest when you read my solution).

A faux font is one that is faked. So faux bold text, for example, would be the normal weighted typeface but crudely fattened up. With a slightly more sophisticated typeface, there will be a version of the font that is specifically designed to be bold. There will be another that is specifically designed to be italic, maybe another for small caps, and possibly even more variations designed to be used at different sizes. The basic fonts you will be familiar with (such as Garamond, Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Tahoma) all have proper bold and italic fonts, so you are in no danger of faux fonts there.

Are faux fonts really such an evil? It depends on the typefaces. These days all common typefaces I’m aware of come with italic and bold versions, and all of them have something called font style-linking (which means that Word knows that when you tell it to set text in italics, for example, that it has to go pick the glyphs from the italic font). So the typefaces that don’t do all this font-linking for you are obscure, amateur or specialist — designed to perform a specific task. So, yes, if you force a typeface to use faux fonts, it probably means you’re forcing it to do something it’s not designed for, and that will look bad.

I do sometimes come across the suggestion that under the Windows platform, Word always uses faux italics and bolds. This isn’t true for any of the common fonts that come with your operating system or with Word, nor any fonts I have purchased from Adobe, although I have found one obscure font for which this is true. I think the rumor stems from the fact that Windows and Macs have a different approach to displaying fonts in their standard font dialogs.

So now that we’ve understood that faux fonts are ones that have been made by altering the normal font, rather than being designed specifically for that purpose, we come to faux small caps.

With small caps, Word lets us down. It’s easy enough to set text to use Small Caps (from the standard font dialog) but these are faux glyphs Even if you have fonts that contain small cap glyphs, Microsoft still can’t access them …

… at least, not easily. If you are desperate for genuine small caps, you can insert them from INSERT | Symbol if they exist in the font. If they are there then they will most likely appear in the section called ‘Private Use Area’. (It’s generally the more fancy or paid-for fonts that have small cap glyphs). Inserting characters one by one is not my idea of a good time, but is perfectly practical for a title or footer, for instance.

Also, a few typefaces have a specific font for small caps, such as Fontin (a free typeface you can download legally here). If you have Fontin installed, then to switch to small caps, select the text and change font from ‘Fontin’ to ‘Fontin Smallcaps’.

So what is all the fuss? Below I’ve written out text in real and faux small caps using a paid-for font called Adobe Garamond Pro.


The lower case letter comes out much larger with the faux small caps, so underneath I’ve reduced their font size by a point to match the real small caps on the left. There certainly is a difference even then. The strokes are narrower; in fact, at these fairly small point sizes (10pt with the faux small caps reduced to 9pt), it isn’t easy to read.

If I raise the font size to 11pt (10pt for the reduced small caps) then we get…


All of them are easy to read, the default Word small caps is too ‘shouty’ for my tastes, especially when mixed in with normal text (rather than used in titles and headings), and reducing the font size of the faux small caps makes the strokes look slightly weedy. All of this, of course, applies to just one typeface, others may look better or worse.

So the issue of faux small caps is genuine and not something that exists only in the minds of overly conservative typographers, but whether that means you should never use them is something else entirely. My view on typesetting is that you should always be guided by your eye. If it looks good and is clear then use them. I use faux small caps extensively in the paperback version of Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition because I feel the end result is clearer for you to read than not using them. When I do use real small caps it is normally for title pages.

Kindles and other eReader devices currently use faux small caps unless you start mucking around with installing font files, which I would generally advise against for books you’re publishing (although installing fonts on a Kindle can be fun). Where I use small caps, (for the lower case letters) I normally up the font size too and span them with a CSS class (font-variant:small-caps; font-size:110%;).

The purpose of small caps within body text is to make words and phrases stand out but without overwhelming the other body text as you would do if you went all caps. That’s all; there’s nothing magical about small caps that means you have to use them. They only exist to do a job for you. Whether in your printed book or eBook, If your faux small caps or any other faux glyphs look bad to your eye, then they are not delivering the effect they are intended for. Scrap the small caps and achieve the same effect some other way.

For example, it’s common to have the first few words of a chapter in small caps. If your small caps look awful, use bold characters instead. I’ve seen this work well on my Kobo, Kindle, and Nook.

— follow this link to read my other writing tips —

FormatYourPrintBook2ndEd_200px_159dpi_q8This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: $2.99 at | £2.00 at

Paperback  $10.80 at | £8.50 at

About Tim C. Taylor

Tim C. Taylor writes science fiction and is the author of 21 published novels as of August 2021. His latest book is 'Hold the Line', published by Theogony Books. Find out more at
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3 Responses to Self-publishing paperbacks: faux fonts and small caps

  1. Pingback: Tips for self-publishers: Typography 101 | Tim C. Taylor

  2. Pingback: Tips for self-publishers: Typography 102 – OpenType | Tim C. Taylor

  3. Pingback: Tips for self-publishers: Table of Contents in Word | Tim C. Taylor

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