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Typesetting odd acronyms/abbreviations

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Hello everyone, in my current book design contract, I've come across an issue and I'm curious if any designers out there have any suggestions:

I have come across the term "AL East" (as in the American League East, one of the divisions in Major League Baseball) within normal text. Throughout this book (and generally throughout my work) I follow Robert Bringhurst's guidelines of using small caps for acronyms/abbreviations, except for two-letter geographic acronyms (such as DC in Washingon DC) and acronyms that refer to someone's name (such as E.B. White).

I admit it looks odd to set "AL" in small caps, followed by the word "East" set in regular upper/lowercase. But it also seems a bit odd to have small caps during pretty much all other instances of abbreviations/acronyms (ex. "WWI aviation", "5:00 AM") except this one.

I'm leaning towards making MLB divisions (AL East, NL Central, etc.) an exception to the abbreviation/acronym rule, but I'm also curious to know if anyone else has come across this issue before, and what solutions other people would suggest.


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Riccardo Sartori

In such cases, in absence of specific guidelines, I tend to apply what looks best alongside the other abbreviations used in the text.

But, as a general rule, I don’t use small caps for any kind of two letter abbreviation.

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Ralf Herrmann
1 hour ago, Littleburgundy said:

I follow Robert Bringhurst's guidelines of using small caps for acronyms/abbreviations … 

I am not a big fan of that suggestion and you already explained why. It introduces visible inconsistencies and depending on the height of the specific small caps in the given typeface it will in many cases actually look wrong to me, catch my attention every time and therefore annoy me as reader. It’s supposed to make the abbreviations blend in better, but depending on the typeface that might only work while looking at the full page, not while actually reading it.  I might rather set up a character style which spaces out the caps and reduces their height by just a fraction. 

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