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I am writing a letter to apply for entry into a graduate-level university program through my company. I am struggling on how to write the name of the company in the letter. The company's trademark is to write the name in capital letters (and we are encouraged to do so in work communication) but this seems out of place to me in the formal letter.

Example:

  1. "... to apply for entry to the MYCORP Leadership program beginning in..."
  2. "... to apply for entry to the Mycorp Leadership program beginning in..."

I'm currently leaning toward option #2 even though this isn't consistent with the company's preferred branding.

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    Working for IBM I would not write Ibm. Don't look at the Trademark, look for formal letters or press releases. If they capitalise then I think you should stick to what the company calls itself. – djna Feb 19 '15 at 19:31
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    Agree with @djna - look for press releases. – andi Feb 19 '15 at 19:35
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    I choose option 2. The people evaluating your letter are grad school people, not company people. They would probably prefer not to see a slavish devotion to an odd branding practice -- it would give a bad impression. – Greg Lee Feb 19 '15 at 19:51
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    If it's a tradename or whatever they're called in the US, wrong style can lead to a court case, as with the non-capitalisation of Biro. The 'people' would probably prefer slavish devotion to an odd branding practice. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 19 '15 at 20:24
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    IBM as mentioned by @djna is an initialism which would generally use all caps (some brands choose otherwise of course). If Mycorp is really an initialism or some sort of hybrid abbreviation it might be best to stick to the company's preferred option. Another point of view is that you wouldn't refer to Microsoft as MS in such a letter, least of all some personal interpretation like M$. – Chris H Feb 19 '15 at 21:39
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I'm very late to this party, but given the nature of the letter in which BLARINGNAMECORP's name was to appear—namely, a letter in which you seek acceptance into a university program—I think you made the right call in casting the company's name as Blaringnamecorp.

In this regard, it's important to note that the all-cap treatment of company names in logos, letterhead, advertisements, and Web pages is in the vast majority of cases a marketing decision, driven by people in the company's advertising/marketing/publicity departments. In many cases, if you check the copyright information on the home page or "about us" page of a company that presents itself in the style BLARINGNAMECORP, you'll find the official name of the company given less stridently, as Blaring Name Corp. or BlaringName Corp. or even Blaringnamecorp.

The point is that the all-caps presentation exists to promote brand recognition and sales. It's aggressive to the point of obnoxiousness—at least that's how some readers will take it, if they view it as the equivalent of someone shouting at them. I certainly wouldn't want to take the chance of offending the university admissions officer who was reviewing my application.

U.S. copyright law requires that people writing about copyright-protected products and entities indicate those entities' special status by treating the terms as proper names—an obligation that traditionally was satisfied by using initial caps for proprietary names. The law does not require writers to replicate all-cap treatments, cutesy superscript characters, gratuitous punctuation marks (as in "c|net"), brand-associated color schemes, brand-associated special fonts, or anything of the sort. Why? It isn't because the company wouldn't like free reinforcement of its marketing efforts; it's because lawmakers recognized that special visual treatments are merely promotional, not intrinsic to establishing ownership and copyright.

For 19 years I worked at computer magazines that reviewed thousands of products for many hundreds of companies. Our policy was to initial-cap company and product names, but not to reproduce all-caps, embedded punctuation, superscripts, font styles, colors, or any other special treatments that the companies had tricked out their product names with; the policy further dictated that we not include ©, ®, or ™ symbols with product names.

Our rationale for the policy was that we were in the business of appraising the products, not training readers to salivate when they saw the marketing-approved form of each name. In any case, we never received so much as a letter of complaint from any company's legal department for enforcing our policy: As long as the product name was initial-capped, the proprietary nature of the company name or product name was deemed sufficiently established under copyright law.

This strikes me as a common-sense interpretation of a company's rights and a writer's obligations with regard to proprietary names. An admissions officer is put on sufficient notice regarding the copyright interests of Blaringnamecorp if you style the name that way; I can't see how anyone's legal interests would be justly promoted by a rule requiring you to mar your application with multiple blasts of BLARINGNAMECORP.

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    Thank you. Bringhurst observes that while anyone is perfectly free to dictate the spelling of their own name, no one can dictate its typography — although some do try. Imagine if someone insisted that their name be set only in a particular face (say, like Zapfino or Comic Sans) or point size (like 27p): nobody would pay them one bit of attention, and quite rightly. – tchrist Apr 9 '15 at 13:32
  • Thanks for the nice answer! I used it partially to write a specific answer on Matlab usage, which we have a discussion on Computational Science Meta. – Anton May 16 at 3:44

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