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I've looked at the question on here that relates to this one, but it doesn't really discuss the use of the majuscule eszett (ẞ). I've never seen it used but how often does the ẞ get used? I know the Gießener Zeitung uses the ẞ because their title is always written in all caps and I found this in the Ständiger Ausschuss für geographische Namen (StAGN) published by the Geschäftsstelle des StAGN im Bundesamt für Kartographie und Geodäsie.

Instead of using the majuscule eszett (if isn't a common, mainstream thing) is it OK and accepted to use a regular one along with capitals?

GOETHESTRAßE

or should you just use two capital S's?

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Also related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/5611/… –  Takkat Dec 14 '13 at 10:38
    
You have an ezett typo, should be eszett. –  stackunderflow Dec 14 '13 at 11:16
    
    
@stackunderflow: dont't bother with commenting for a typo, just edit (or suggest an edit), you will even get some rep for that ;) –  Takkat Dec 14 '13 at 15:02
    
No, you can't make a one character typo edit. Try it. –  stackunderflow Dec 14 '13 at 19:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The capital eszett is used rarely, though with surprisingly increasing frequency. This article features some recent uses, including the corporate designs of RWE (a major German electricity company), the SPD (a major German political party) and the University of Weimar.

Though using the capital eszett is wrong according to the official orthographical rules¹, I do not consider its usage a flaw, since a well-designed capital eszett does not inhibit legibility (and at the end of the day, legibility is why we bother with orthography). The latter is because all caps and the eszett both occur with relatively low frequency, let alone together and according to the rules – i.e., ß being replaced by SS in all caps. Also, there was a time where the Duden (who then was the official spelling authority) clearly stated that the using SS instead of ß in all caps should only be a temporary solution until an acceptable capital eszett was found:

»Die Verwendung zweier Buchstaben für einen Laut ist nur ein Notbehelf, der aufhören muß, sobald ein geeigneter Druckbuchstabe für das große ß geschaffen ist.« Duden, 1919

Moreover, the Rat für Rechtschreibung, the committee that issues the spelling rules, stated in its report from 2010:

[Der Rat] wird aber den Bereich [ß-Schreibung] weiter beobachten, nicht zuletzt dahingehend, ob der Großbuchstabe für <ß> nach seiner Kodierung in ISO-10646 und Unicode 5.1 eine grafische Umsetzung erfährt und sich im Schreibgebrauch etablieren kann, was dann im Regelwerk zu berücksichtigen wäre.

With other words: The official German spelling authority states that it would recognise the capital eszett in its rules, if:

  • it gets realised graphically (which already happened)
  • it gets established in use (which can only happen, if users actively violate the spelling rules)

Therefore the usage of the capital eszett in order to establish it can be said to be encouraged by the official German spelling authority in some sense.


So, if you use all caps or small caps, I would recommend:

  • If it is not a logo or similar: Check, if you really want to use all caps, since they decrease legibility, make the text optically disharmonious and a lot of people feel shouted at by them. Consider using small caps or another type of typographical emphasis (bold, italics, …) instead.
  • If you do not have to adhere to the spelling rules for their own sake (e.g., in exams) and you can assure that your text is rendered in a font with a proper capital eszett, use it (GOETHESTRAẞE). This is arguably the alternative which least readers will stumble over. I personally used a small-caps eszett in a situation with several readers who where supposed to spot mistakes, and nobody noticed. The design of a capital eszett is good, if it cannot be read as a B and if it does not stand out amongst the other capital letters of the font, e.g., by being to narrow (see also here).
  • Otherwise use SS (GOETHESTRASSE). Never use a small eszett (GOETHESTRAßE), except for forms where names need to be identified correctly and similar.

¹ This does not necessarily hold for small caps, depending on how you interpret the spelling rules.

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or should you just use two capital S's?

Use that one. It's the most common capitalization and I'd recommend it over using lower case.

Alternative spellings are

  • SZ, which used to be recommended for ambiguous cases (Maße vs Masse) and according to Wikipedia, is the default for some specific applications (military typewriters, architectural drawings) and regions (eastern Austria)

  • , the actual capital letter (added to DIN in 2007 and Unicode in 2008), which is mainly used in things like signs or logos or in cases where capitalization is used for formal reasons like machine readability and the distinction between SS and matters (eg proper names for identification)

Note that capital eszett might become the default spelling in the future (who knows?), but it isn't yet. On the other hand, Switzerland got rid of the ß altogether.

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There is no capital "sharp s", not really. Yes, some fonts have it, and there have been repeated attempts to introduce a majuscule ß, but support is far from widespread. Learners of German would be well-advised to stay away from it. Just use "SS" is you must, and be done with it. It's probably a good thing to avoid all caps anyway.

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Why would »learners of German be well-advised to stay away from it«? What harm could it do (apart from infuriating dogmatic teachers)? –  Wrzlprmft Dec 14 '13 at 13:55
    
Capital ß hasn't arrived in the public mind yet, by a long way. As far as the relevant authorities are concerned, it doesn't exist; hence my advice to leave the experimental typography, as it were, to native speakers. –  Ingmar Dec 14 '13 at 14:26
    
@Ingmar: it's in BundesSans and BundesSerif, so at least the typographers of the German parliament are aware of it; see typografie.info/3/page/artikel.htm/_/wissen/… for some unrelated usage –  Christoph Dec 14 '13 at 15:17
    
<del>parliament</del><ins>government</ins> –  Christoph Dec 14 '13 at 15:24
    
Good for them, but they aren't exactly the go-to people in terms of orthography & co, at least in my book. –  Ingmar Dec 14 '13 at 15:35

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