I’m using small caps to mark up acronyms. Many style guides recommend this to make the acronyms stand out less among the lower-case letters.

However, I didn’t find good advice of what to do with mixed-case acronyms, such as “OpenMP”. For consistency, I’m currently setting them in small caps as well, e.g. \textsc{OpenMP}.

However, I feel that this defeats the original purpose of the small caps, and indeed it makes the abbreviation stand out disproportionately from the surrounding text, causing disruption. But all the other alternatives seem to have disadvantages as well.

For reference, these are the alternatives that I can think of.

rendered example

  1. \textsc{OpenMP}, as mentioned above. Consistent with other abbreviations, in that it uses small caps all through. Inconsistent in that it makes minuscules into small caps and preserves majuscules.

  2. \textsc{o}pen\textsc{mp}, only small-cap the capitals, logically the most consistent with the other abbreviations, but looks prohibitive.

  3. OpenMP, normal font.

Am I missing something? What is the best alternative? What rationale can you offer for your decision?

Furthermore, I am currently defining my abbreviations via a convenient macro:

\newacronyms{api, cpu, dna, oop, OpenMP, …}

Which defines macros \api, \cpu, … \OpenMP etc.

If possible, I’d like to preserve this style. I’m not sure how I could achieve such a convenient mechanism for methods 2 and 3 above. How would this be implemented?

  • In case of solution 1 or 2, would you also use it in headlines and section titles? The default styles typeset headlines in bold but there are no bold small caps in Computer Modern, as far as I know. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 13:13
  • @Christian: I’m not using CM so that’s not an issue. Yes, I’d also use them in headings. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 13:17
  • What do you mean by "2... looks prohibitive"? I would imagine that for a TeXpert, making a little macro to turn OpenMP into \textsc{o}pen\textsc{mp} would not be too hard. Also, I do not understand why you think 3. would be hard to do. Is that not the easiest? Personally I use option 2. with the glossaries package: \newacronym{OpenMP}{o\textup{pen}mp}{Open Multi-Processing} and the smallcaps option. This way \gls{OpenMP} gives what you want, but \Gls{OpenMP} will be capitalized, \glspl{OpenMP} will be plural etc.
    – mforbes
    Commented Oct 10, 2011 at 22:40
  • 1
    @mforbes I mean that it looks ugly (you are right that programming the macro is pretty straightforward, if you’re willing to ignore Unicode). For the record, I ended up using (1) which, as far as I’m concerned, looks best of those three alternatives. I’ve also seen it used in other documents. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 7:21
  • 1
    I think the best looking solution will be 2 but with a font that supports multiple sizes of caps (mid caps, or large small caps with petite caps). This is discussed on typophile (see the links at the bottom of the page for more discussions). I have (asked for a list of fonts with mid caps)[typophile.com/node/88982]. Once I get some examples that work well in LaTeX I can post a full solution here if that would be of use.
    – mforbes
    Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 1:33

4 Answers 4


Not really a compelling rationale, but I would go with method 2 because that's what The Economist does:
text snippet from The Economist with mixed case abbreviation
(The Economist, November 6th 2010)

  • Ooh, interesting alternative. It’s not quite the same as my (2): they use an upper case initial. Good, though. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 13:18
  • 1
    The Economist Style Guide rules for the use of small capitals includes "abbreviations that include upper-case and lower-case letters must be set in a mixture of small capitals and roman ... the same rule applies if an abbreviation is linked to a number" but then goes on with more rules relating to 'typographical furniture' accompanying small capitals and also bans the use of small capitals in "captions, charts ..., footnotes, headings, rubrics or tables."
    – mas
    Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 17:43
  • 1
    The style guide is at 1 btw.
    – Nova
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 13:44

Obviously it's a matter of taste, but, FWIW, I ignore mixed-case acronyms, and use \textsc with an initial "capital" only.

In your case this would lead to:


See also my macro for typesetting acronyms.

  • Interesting solution, +1. However, I really prefer small caps since they harmonize better with the surrounding lower case text (in well-designed fonts, anyway). In particular, small caps have thicker strokes than down-scaled fonts, which look a wee bit flimsy for my taste. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 11:54
  • That's fine with me and something I would use myself in a text with little math and other complications. Using the \<IBM> macro is so simple that I don't bother to define a special macros \IBM and the like but I can see that benefit of that, too. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 12:14

I just stumbled on the same problem and I am actually considering using a smaller font for the miniscules to try and make them look right beside their small cap friends. I went for \scriptsize\textbf and after having tried all alternatives it feels like the best for me at least. I guess I should look at it again after I have had a night's sleep... :)

  • I am still using it after quite a few nights sleep :)
    – jonalv
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 19:20

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