When considering what graphic element(s) to use on your desktop published page, a drop cap is an option to consider. A drop cap is taking the first letter of the first paragraph of an article or a chapter and enlarging it so that it is the size of the first three lines of the paragraph. It could be the first two lines or even four lines, but three is what is most commonly used.
You can also change the font of the drop cap depending on the content of your publication. For a children's book you might use a font that looks like it was written by a child or has an image attached to it. There are so many fonts available on the internet, and many that are free, making the possibilities almost endless.
When deciding how to place the drop cap you can choose between placing it within the text, extending above the text, or partway or all the way in the margin. Play around with it and see what fits and looks best in your publication. How you do this will depend on what program you are using to desktop publish your page.
If using Word 7, go to the Insert tab and inside the Text block is the Drop Cap function. Your cursor can be anywhere within the paragraph that you want the drop cap to appear. The drop down menu gives you four options -- None, Dropped, In Margin and Drop Cap Options. Drop Cap Options allows you to change the number of lines the drop cap will fit as well as changing the font and will even let you set the distance from the text. If you do not like how it looks, go back and change your option to None to remove the drop cap and then try again!
It has always been my preference to have at least one line of the paragraph to fall under the drop cap giving it a foundation. If the paragraph you apply the drop cap to has only three lines then you may choose to have it drop two lines or extend above the paragraph.
Once you decide to use drop caps in your publication, be sure to be consistent with its use. If publishing a book and you use a drop cap in chapter 1, be sure to use it for all the following chapters. However, if you are publishing a newsletter that may have several articles on one page, too many drop caps may make the page look cluttered -- especially if using images and other graphic elements. Here you may want to do just the main article, but do the main article for each subsequent newsletter.
Drop caps can be a great tool in your desktop publishing toolbox. Use drop caps when appropriate to enhance your publication and be creative and try different options. That is part of the fun in doing desktop publishing!