Q&A: ANZAC vs Anzac

Every week in our free Australian Writers’ Centre newsletter, our Q&A desk handles the important lexical issues of the day. This week, a reader wanted to know about the ANZAC vs Anzac…

Q: Hi there, I see it written “Anzac Day” a lot. But surely, it should be in capitals, because it’s an acronym, right?

A: Okay, hang on, just need to put this batch of delicious Anzac biscuits in the oven first. Right, now, where were we? Ah yes. ANZAC vs Anzac.

Q: It stands for “Australia and New Zealand Army Corps” and therefore should be capitalised, should it not?

A: Well, claiming that it should be all in caps “because it’s an acronym” is not the way to look at these things. In fact, you can only really say that about initialisms.

Q: Initialisms? Ex-squeeze me?

A: Yeah, they’re blanketed under the term “acronym”, but these are the ones that spell out each individual letter in their pronunciation. So an example might be TV broadcaster ABC or CBS. Or FBI, NRMA, RACV, USA etc – and they’re always in caps.

Q: So ANZ for the bank, but not ANZAC then?

A: We’ll come back to ANZAC. But for the majority of other acronyms, they sound like words when you read them. And these aren’t always written with caps. Take our national carrier for example.

Q: Virgin?

A: No, the other one.

Q: Emirates?

A: No, Qantas! You see, “QANTAS” stands for Queensland and North Territory Aerial Services but is today generally written with just the capital Q. And then you have “radar”, “laser” or “scuba” – all acronyms which drop capitals altogether. But you’ll equally find NASA and NATO or even ISIS getting all official again with all-caps. Basically, it’s like the Australian cricket team – inconsistent and prone to the odd controversy.

Q: Indeed. So are there any other examples that don’t fit these two camps?

A: Oh, there are plenty. Take “JPEG/Jpeg/jpg” – generally only pronounced one way, but many different options for caps/lowercase/mixed. Then you have the ongoing “jiff” vs “giff” pronunciation debate for a “GIF” file. And even something like a website “FAQ” – some people read this as “eff-aye-cue” while others go with “fack”.

Q: Fack yeah, I suppose you’re right. I should take a look at these ASAP.

A: Good example! Most would read that as “aye-ess-aye-pee”, but often it’s also spelt “asap” or “Asap” without all caps, and some even pronounce it “aye-sap”.

Q: Got it. But back to ANZAC/Anzac. There must be an official word on this.

A: You’re in luck; there is. The official Australian government ruling goes with “Anzac” when referring to “Anzac Day” and those who fought are referred to as “Anzacs”. The full caps ANZAC is used only to refer to the army formation itself (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) but not to describe the people and events associated with it.

Q: But I see it all the time as ANZAC. Is this wrong?

A: Technically yes, but it’s hard to contain. Welcome to the English language, yet again!

Q: It’s great to be here.

A: There are indeed many organisations (the RSL being one of them) that have in the past favoured the use of all-caps ANZAC for everything. And schools generally teach all-caps, perhaps to highlight that it is indeed an acronym. Plus, if you’re writing something for somewhere that has all-caps in its style guide, go with that. Yet any world atlas will show you that “Anzac Cove” is not all-caps and Anzac Day marks the landing of the Anzacs there. They were however part of the ANZAC group of soldiers.

Q: Wow, English is quite the battle itself. Wait, is something burning?

A: Our biscuits! OMG, gotta go!

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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