How Should “Covid” Appear in Print?

There are three options. I have a favorite

Barry Lyons
2 min readJan 7, 2022
CDC Online Newsroom

The above example comes from The Atlantic (Harper’s also spells it this way). Why the all caps? It’s because it’s an acronym: “COronaVIrus Disease.” Think of NASA, some will say: the National Space and Aeronautics Administration. Imperial College London writes: “[All caps] is consistent with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) use of the abbreviation and its use in scientific papers.” The Modern Language Association and the Associated Press are also on board with this view. Me? I don’t like it. All caps look shouty and loud to me. Maybe we’re all used to seeing NASA, but I doubt I will ever get used to COVID.

Here’s the New York Times:

It’s understandable that the word would at least be capitalized whereas “coronavirus” would not because various — and sometimes non-lethal — coronaviruses exist. The common cold, for example, is a coronavirus.

Here’s The New Yorker:

This I like. The magazine’s house style is certainly eccentric at times—I never understood why they like “teen-ager” (that hyphen makes me think of “to-day” from days of yore) — but I’m with The New Yorker’s small cap approach (the magazine does the same for the acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome). It’s the best of both worlds: You have the all caps as stipulated by the World Health Organization, but the caps are reduced to the size of lowercase text. It’s a nice solution. It’s easy on the eyes. It’s handsome, elegant, and quiet.

Barry Lyons is a writer and editor in New York City. Here, have another essay: Superfluous Redundancies That Writers Can Eradicate Completely.



Barry Lyons

Not a fan of sports or religion. I guess that makes me a bad American.