Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was always taught to capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence, and also the first letter of proper nouns. In the last few years it's been common for certain firms to name their brands something that is always spelled with a small first letter and a capital second letter. It is almost as if they demand the rules of usage are changed. What do you do about this? Where is the inquisition when you need it? Should you start a sentence with "IPhone"? Should you use "iphone" in the middle of a sentence?

share|improve this question
2  
It's called CamelCase: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CamelCase –  paradroid Sep 10 '11 at 21:57
3  
I suppose it's up to you which rule you give priority, but I'd have thought the right of eBay to say what their own name is outweighs the "right" of pedants to say what constitutes good grammar. –  FumbleFingers Jan 17 '12 at 5:58
    
There are some interesting points on this here boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=505324&; –  MikeVaughan Jan 17 '12 at 6:03
    
Same way you would capitalize McDonald's, whether used as a brand name or a last name. –  zooone9243 Sep 28 '12 at 23:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Brand names

You should never change a brand name. 'iPhone' should always be spelled as 'iPhone,' no matter where in the sentence it is. 'IPhone,' 'iphone,' 'I-phone,' 'i-phone' or 'I phone' are always wrong. 'iPhone' is the only good one:

Good

iPhones are the best selling smartphones.

Wrong

IPhones are the best selling smartphones.

Terrible

Iphones are the best selling smartphones.

This is the same for all brand names, but this can also be for other (nick)names invented by people, for example 'rms' which should always be spelled lowercase.


Exception

There could be, however, one exception, when the sentence is spelled in all caps, usually for styling purposes:

Good

IPHONES ARE THE BEST SELLING SMARTPHONES.

Acceptable

iPhones ARE THE BEST SELLING SMARTPHONES.

share|improve this answer
17  
This is true... but to avoid the weirdness of beginning a sentence a lower-case letter I usually avoid putting "iPhone" as the first word in the sentence. –  JSBձոգչ Jan 17 '11 at 15:57
1  
@JSBangs: Good idea. It's probably easy to avoid this a lot of the time; for example, the sentence above could be written, "The iPhone is the best-selling smartphone." –  Andy Jan 18 '11 at 22:06
3  
+1, nice formatting. –  ApprenticeHacker Jan 15 '12 at 16:18
1  
I think this is a case of the general rule that people have the right to decide on their own proper names. Like, if someone is named "Sallee", I don't think others should be saying, Oh, that's mis-spelled, it's supposed to be "Sally", and insist on spelling it that way! –  Jay Jan 17 '12 at 16:19
1  
"You should never change a brand name" - I can see that this is standard usage, but what's the actual justification? I assume there's some published source or style guide somewhere that tries to supply some reason, however post-hoc or arbitrary it might be. (It's not like we honor some companies' desires to slap a ™ next to every single usage of their product name when we write about them in the paper.) –  Alex P Jun 19 '13 at 16:22

Wikipedia suggest that eBay is the correct usage.

eBay announced that starting in March 2008, eBay had added to...

However, I would be interested to see if the same convention applies with abbreviations like mRNA

Again, Wikipedia suggests the same.

mRNA is transcribed from a DNA template, and carries coding information...

However, that's not to say that these are the "official" rules in any capacity.

share|improve this answer
1  
I would definitely give a poor note to a student who wrote MRNA. For whichever grammar reason... –  nico Jan 17 '12 at 7:21
    
@nico What's a "poor note"? –  Andrew Grimm Jul 20 '12 at 14:45
    
@Andrew Grimm: a low mark when correcting a biology paper/exam etc. –  nico Jul 20 '12 at 15:57
    
@nico: unlike in French and German, "note" does not mean mark/grade in English. –  Max Apr 29 at 17:21

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.