Bill Bennett


Capital letters and product names

A handful of technology brands insist their names are all capital letters. In recent days I’ve seen Asus and Gigabyte push this idea. There are others.

Companies can write their names however they want.

They don’t need to worry about being literate, sensible or easy to read. Although all of those things might help them.

Journalists should not write company names in capital letters. The goal is to make information easy to understand.

This means ignoring demands to spell company names in capitals unless there are good, practical reasons to do otherwise. I’ll look at these in a moment.

Readers come first

Journalists serve readers, not markets nor companies. We do this by making information easy to get and understand. Messing around with capital letters interferes with that role. Capitals are the reading equivalent of speed bumps. They slow a reader’s flow.

The flip side of that argument means companies have an incentive to insist on using capitals in brand names. Words spelled out in capital letters stand out in text passages. They leap out from a page or screen.

A less charitable interpretation is that spelling a company name in capital letters is a variation of narcissistic capitals. Puffed-up people think it makes them look more important. It doesn’t. In fact it can do more harm than good.

Editors who nod through product names in capitals knowingly or unknowingly put brands’ interests ahead of their reader’s interests. There can be commercial pressure to do this, especially from companies that are potential advertisers. Some readers will realise this and learn not to trust the publication.

When company name are capital letters

We pronounce names like HP or IBM as a string of letters. It makes sense to write them as capitals. This doesn’t apply when company names are acronyms forming a pronounceable word.