A handful of technology brands insist their names are all capitals. 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 capitals 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 capitals stand out in text passages. They leap out from a page or screen.

Editors who nod through product names in capitals knowingly or unknowingly put brands’ interests ahead of their reader’s interests. Some readers will realise this and learn not to trust the publication.

When company name are capitals

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.


Companies and insecure individuals often insist their job titles should be spelt with upper case letters. We are talking here of narcissistic capitals.

This is incorrect grammar — capitals are used at the start of proper nouns. Bus driver is not a proper noun. Nor is marketing director or chief executive officer. For that matter neither is president.

A job title can be a proper noun in some cases, that’s another issue.

No matter.

People who insist writers spell job titles in capital letters think it makes the person look more important. Or because they think some jobs are more important than others and deserve capitals for that reason.

As if ‘head of marketing’ isn’t already impressive enough.

Some people insist on using capitals even when they understand it is bad grammar. As my friend Chris Bell points out they worry that using titles correctly may show the world they are unduly modest.

So they deliberately show the world they are semi-illiterate instead. Give me literate any day.

Good writing is direct, clear and precise. It sends your thoughts and ideas directly to readers.

Concrete nouns keep your writing on track. They are unambiguous and specific. Use concrete nouns to pin down facts and inform readers.

Nouns are concrete when they refer to something you can touch, smell, see, taste or hear. They are things you sense directly.

Banana, chair, piston engine, trumpet, pterodactyl are all concrete nouns.

I like to think of concrete nouns as crunchy, but they could just as easily be squishy, smelly, loud or colourful.

On the other hand, abstract nouns are things you can’t form a picture of. They are ideas, conditions and qualities, such as courage and happiness.

Many abstract nouns started life as verbs or adverbs, but become abstract nouns with suffixes. So fascinate, becomes fascination, credible becomes credibility and so on.

If you report on events steer clear of abstract nouns.

Abstract nouns are useful when you want to generalise or when writing about ideas. At the same time they make it hard to figure out exactly what the writer means and are open to misinterpretation.