Stylistically speaking

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A pedant myself, I was naturally attracted to an article by Elizabeth Ribbans in the Guardian this week: the headline read COVID or Covid? The comfort of pedantry at a time of national crisis.

Ribbans is the newspaper’s readers’ editor; her team is responsible for fact-checking, correcting copy and dealing with readers’ questions, comments and complaints. The question which inspired the headline was from a medical specialist who asked why the Guardian insisted on using Covid-19 when the medical profession uses COVID-19.

Ribbans explains that it is the Guardian‘s practice, along with many if not most British newspapers,

to use uppercase for abbreviations that are written and spoken as a collection of letters, such as BBC, IMF and NHS, whereas acronyms pronounced as words go upper and lower, eg Nasa, Unicef and, now, Covid-19.

(This is, incidentally, a practice I abhor. “Nasa” and “Unicef” are not words even if their abbreviations/ acronyms can be pronounced; when I see them spelled as “NASA” and “UNICEF” I am aware of the full title of the body and its responsibilities, just as I am aware of who the BBC, IMF and NHS are and what they do. Continue reading