Learning HTML 3.2 by Examples, section 5 Descriptions of HTML 3.2 tags:

SMALL - small font (Not in HTML 2.0!)


To present text in a small font, e.g. in order to indicate it as less important.

Typical rendering

Smaller than normal font. See general notes on rendering markup.

Basic syntax


Possible attributes


Allowed context

Text container, i.e. any element that may contain text elements. This includes most HTML elements. In particular, text elements can be nested.


Text elements. Notice that this disallows e.g. paragraph breaks.


A trivial example:

Example SMALL-1.html:

This is normal text.
This text will be presented in a smaller font, if possible.
An example which uses SMALL to simulate "small caps" font style.

Example SMALL-2.html:

Especially in a document which contains a lot of abbreviations or other expressions in all-caps, one might use SMALL for those abbrevs to make them look better:

Example SMALL-3.html:

are widely used name-like initialisms. By the way, the reference
spelling of character names in Unicode uses upper case only; e.g. "A" is


As mentioned in the discussion of phrase elements, there is no logical markup for de-emphasis. The SMALL element, despite being physical markup, might conceivably be used for the purpose.

The use of SMALL to simulate "small caps" as in example 2 above is not particularly effective. Some browsers simply ignore SMALL, leading to an all upper case presentation. In popular browsers, SMALL seems to cause presentation which is just marginally (if at all) smaller than normal font. It is better to use logical markup than to stick presentation conventions designed for traditional forms of publication. For example, use CITE for book titles and other citations. (A user who wants to see them in all caps style might consider using style sheets for the purpose.) Unfortunately there is no logical markup for people's names in current HTML standard.

It is unspecified what happens if SMALL elements are nested; it might or might not result in using a font which is smaller than you get with a single SMALL.

The FONT element may provide more alternatives for specifying different font sizes.

Notice that people may set the normal text font in their browser to something which is just big enough for them to read. If you use SMALL, the result might be illegibly small.

See general notes on text markup, which provide additional examples.

Date of last update: 2010-12-16.
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