How do I achieve the equivalent of using small caps in Arabic?

I have this letterhead title in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, in which I set the English to Small Caps (that is, the first letter is a big capital, the rest are small). Now, in Hebrew, the letters are generally squarish, so they’re kind of like small caps already (although there’s no equivalent of the large cap). In Arabic, however, many/most letters are at half-height (e.g. و and د), while other rise well above the x-height, e.g. ال which denotes a definite article. But ال is not like a big cap at all, and the rest of my text looks so low(ly) compared to the English small caps.

What do I do?

Illustration of the letter-head

Notes:

  • Here is an example of Arabic in boxed letter-forms. It’s not what I would be looking for, but does illustrate how Arabic type is amenable to many (acceptable) kinds of stretching, shaping and manipulation.
  • Suggestions such as “Do something entirely different than small caps” are not entirely irrelevant, but I would rather stick to my original whim.
  • I can’t just have the script in every language be set in a different style altogether, consistent only with the custom for titles in that language.

Answer

It’s unfortunate that Khaled hasn’t had a chance to respond here, but I’ll give you my typographer response.

As a general principle, I would strongly recommend sticking with the typographic conventions of each culture. Distorting letterforms (or choosing unusual typefaces that don’t convey the same sense of formality as small caps do in English) is definitely not acceptable in a letterhead.

Imposing the sensibilities of one culture upon a communication to a different one is very dangerous. A Chinese designer used only to Chinese letterforms might think (I’m making this up as an example — I have no idea what a Chinese designer might actually think) that Comic Sans or Chiller conveys just the right sense of dignity in a bilingual funeral announcement.

This is very much like the problem of translating idioms from one language to another. What works beautifully in one language can be a disaster in another. I once had a Thai translator ask me about the term “Christ-like” in a piece of text. “I can’t say that in Thai,” she said. “It would be an insult!”

Stick with conventions that work in each culture. Don’t mix them, and for safety verify with a native reader that you’ve not committed any inadvertent faux pas.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : einpoklum , Answer Author : Alan Gilbertson

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