Bloody Well Write

May 11, 2009

Trademarks, their symbols and decluttered writing

I don’t know about you, but the day that I learned how to make a trademark (registered and otherwise) on my Mac was a happy day, indeed. I knew that I was a successful Mac user who had mastered a few keystrokes for something that would make others break out in a hot sweat. Co-workers would yell over the wall to me, begging for those pearls of wisdom: Share — please share the knowledge! How the heck do you insert a TM again? And don’t even get me started on the em dash and its shy cousin, the en dash. It was almost as if I were Steve Jobs’ right-hand gal, the way I could throw around directions for special characters.

OK, I can hear you snickering. I suppose it may not have been quite that awe-inspiring. Time gives memory an expansive quality; everything seems bigger, better (or harder, worse — depending on your mood) back in the day. But I will tell you this: Those circle R’s and TMs and such gave me a sense of accomplishment. And now I’d like to share that information. It’ll come in handy if you’re on a Mac (if you’re on a PC, I’m of zero help — sorry!):

® = Option+ R
™ = Option + 2
And for good measure, here are a few other fun symbols and inserts for you:
© = Option + G
En dash = Option + Hyphen
Em dash = Option + Shift + Hyphen
Ellipsis = Option + Semicolon

The funny thing is, though, now that I know these simple keystrokes for trademarks, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to use them. You see, I work at an advertising agency that follows AP Stylebook guidelines. In fact, most agencies follow the same guidelines. And the Associated Press does not use trademark symbols. So, poop — I’ve lost my mojo.

Of course, I still have to make sure that when I write or edit copy, any brand, symbol, word or whatnot is rightfully acknowledged as being trademarked. The solution is simple: Initial-cap the word or phrase. That uppercase letter is enough to get most corporate lawyers off your back, so don’t feel obligated to add trademark symbols plus the generic terms unless you just really have a hankering for them. AP suggests using the generic equivalent whenever possible, unless the trademarked name would give some extra punch to whatever you’re writing.

So many words out there are actually trademarks, but a lot of folks don’t realize it. Kleenex is, perhaps, the most obvious case, as most folks and the proverbial dog say Kleenex when they really mean tissue (maybe they are wiping with a Puffs brand or a Great Value brand, but they still say Kleenex). Other examples aren’t quite as well-known. Here’s a fun list of trademark examples, with their generic equivalents in parentheses:

Ace (elastic bandage)
Adrenalin (epinephrine hydrochloride or adrenaline)
Aqua-Lung (underwater breathing apparatus)
Band-Aid (adhesive bandage)
Bobcat (excavators, backhoes and such)
Boogie (bodyboard for surfing)
Books on Tape (audiotape)
Bubble Wrap (packing material)
Caterpillar (crawler tractor)
Chemical Mace/Mace (aerosal tear gas)
Coke (cola, soda or pop, depending on your locale)
Clorox (bleach)
Dacron (polyester fiber)
Deepfreeze (freezer)
Dictaphone (dictation recorder)
Disposall (garbage disposer; often a descriptor for a male in the house)
Dixie cup (paper cup)
Dramamine (motion sickness remedy)
Dumpster (large trash bin)
Fiberglas (fiberglass)
Florida Keys (no, not a trademark; just seeing if you’re paying attention)
Formica (laminated plastic)
Frigidaire (refrigerator)
Frisbee (plastic flying disc)
Google (Web search engine)
Jacuzzi (whirlpool bath or spa)
Java (computer programming language; also an island of Indonesia; if lowercase, coffee)
Jeep (four-wheel-drive vehicle; if lowercase, a military vehicle)
Jello (gelatin dessert)
Jet Ski (personal watercraft)
Kitty Litter (cat box litter)
Kleenex (facial tissue)
Kodak (cameras and associated products)
Levi’s (jeans)
Lycra (spandex)
Mother Nature (not trademarked, but definitely initial-capped; are you still with me?)
Muzak (recorded background music)
Naugahyde (fake leather)
Oreo (chocolate cookie with white filling)
Ouija (board game)
Photoshop (photo editing software)
Ping-Pong (table tennis or pingpong)
Plexiglas (plastic glass)
Polaroid (instant picture camera)
Popsicle (flavored ice on a stick)
Pyrex (oven glassware)
Q-tips (cotton swabs)
Realtor (a service mark to represent a member of the National Association of Realtors; if subject is not a member, use real estate agent)
Rolls-Royce (automobile)
Scotch tape (transparent tape)
Seeing Eye dog (guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. in N.J.)
Sheetrock (gypsum wallboard)
S.O.S (soap pad — note that there is no final period; wild, huh?)
Styrofoam (plastic foam)
Tabasco (hot pepper sauce)
Taser (stun gun)
Teflon (nonstick coating)
Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
Velcro (fabric fastener)
Victrola (record player)
Welcome Wagon (wheeled vehicle carrying information and gifts)
Windbreaker (wind-resistant jacket)
Xerox (photocopy machine)
Yahoo (online computer service)

Schnikies! That’s a long list, and I guarantee that there a ton more, so be ever-vigilant in your writing and editing. Look stuff up if you have any question about its trademark status. I learned a few new ones as I was typing the list, so I’m a happy camper. If you have questions about other trademarks (or trademark issues), you should check out the International Trademark Association’s Web site.

Happy trails!



April 10, 2009

Going postal

Filed under: grammar,Jajo,post office,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 3:36 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Art imitates life. Or is it the other way around? Or maybe both, depending on the day? Today’s entry developed directly from one of my work experiences yesterday.

A few of us went to the main post office here in town to learn a bit about mailpiece design. (Yes, the one-word mailpiece is, according to the post office, a legitimate term, and since I’m discussing postal issues, I’m deferring to its spelling preference.) We even scored a tour. The bummer was that we were there during off-peak hours, so all the belts were stationary, no whistles were toot-tooting and no one was shouting orders to and fro. In fact, there were very few folks around. But there were some chicks (dyed bright green and orange, no less) in cartons, chirping their little lungs out, waiting to be shipped out in time for Easter.

But I digress.

We learned about acceptable sizes for letters and postcards — including the “official” tapping-an-envelope-through-a-slot-to-see-if-its-size-is-legit method — and whether or not we should design an envelope out of metallic paper (not recommended); but what really caught my attention was the shtick about addressing a letter or parcel, particularly the punctuation (or lack thereof) within an address.

Read the entire article at Bloody Well Write’s new location.

April 6, 2009

Down with capitalization aggravation!

If you want to sit around and chat with like-minded folks who are concerned with the state of the English language, especially the capitalization conundrum, you better pull up a comfy chair and get yourself (and others — hey, you’re not rude) an oversized bottle of red zin, because it’s going to be a long discussion.

In a relatively fruitless effort to be short and sweet on a subject that is neither short nor sweet, here are a few (!) AP Stylebook rules. Sit back, grab your glass and enjoy.

What needs to be initial-capped:

• Internet and Web  (when referring to the World Wide Web: Web site, Web browser), no matter where it lands in the sentence

• Places and their derivatives (America, American, Americanism)

• Days of the week and months (Thursday, Saturday, May, November)

• Organizations and their abbreviations (American Kennel Club, AKC)

• Geographic areas when referred to as areas (the Northwest, the East Coast)

• Rank, position and family relationship unless preceded by my, his, their or other possessive pronouns (President Obama, Professor H. Higgins, Uncle Albert, Dr. Doolittle)

• Most titles and works of art (initial-cap the first word, last word, each important word and each pronoun/article of four or more letters), including titles of books, plays, pamphlets, periodicals, movies, radio and television programs, operas, ballets, records, tapes, CDs, sculptures and paintings, and the names of ships, airplanes and spacecraft. Some examples follow:

•    The Chicago Manual of Style

•    “On the Road”

•    “West Side Story”

•    The New Yorker

•    “There’s Something About Mary”

•    “Seinfeld”

•    “Swan Lake”

•    “Room at Arles”

•    Voyager 2

What doesn’t:

• The seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)

• Words that indicate direction (We flew west to get to Los Angeles)

• Family relationships w/ possessive pronouns attached (my uncle Ivan)

• Multiple titles directly in front of a person’s name, even if each title on its own would normally be uppercased (J. Crew chairman and CEO Millard Drexler)

What about headlines?

Well, friends, it may as well be a crapshoot, as far as I’m concerned. The AP Stylebook explains that headlines only get the first word initial-capped, plus any proper nouns (as in someone’s name or a specific city or such). Fine. But then I check out The Washington Post’s Web site: Its headlines show every major word uppercased. Same with The New York Times’ Web site. But then I look at the Chicago Tribune’s Web site and presto! They follow AP. Same with the Los Angeles Times. And any number of other sites have any other number of alternate capitalization options. It boils down to each company’s particular or chosen style guide.

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, if you follow AP, you have your answer: Uppercase only the first word and any proper nouns. If you say, “Pooh-pooh on AP,” then you’re left to your own grammatical devices. I don’t know exactly why some papers choose to follow AP and some go rogue; my guess would be that they either do not know better (highly, highly unlikely) or they simply choose to uppercase every major word because it looks good, more prominent — as a headline should look. Maybe old habits simply die hard. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know.

The ad agency I work at (Jajo, if you’re interested) likes the AP format. I’ve come around to being OK with that. I’ve got old-school-itis, in that the all-caps thing looks more headline-ish to me. However, I get why the fewer-caps style makes sense. After all, most headlines are meant to read like sentences, albeit stilted ones, so why not cap them accordingly?

So yes, that’s my recommendation: Initial-cap the first word and any proper nouns. No more, no less.

Warning: Diversion ahead!

I do have to moan a bit about one headline convention that I do not get: punctuation. To me, punctuation includes periods, question marks, exclamation points, etc. So if you’re not supposed to have ending punctuation marks, why do question marks squeeze in? Granted, they help make the point of the question. But it’s selective punctuation.

And worse than that, I sometimes see a headline that has two (count ’em, two) sentences; the first sentence ends with a period but the second doesn’t. Good grief! That bugs the bejeebers out of me. If anyone has the answer, by all means, leave a comment so I can learn to just let it go.


Happy trails!


March 10, 2009

Avert the apostrophe catastrophe

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,Jajo,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 6:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

That tiny, seemingly innocuous punctuation mark: The apostrophe is the bane of so many writers’ existence. The rules on its correct use tend to flip-flop depending on which style guide is followed or which side of the bed the writer rolled out of that morning. Of course, all things being equal (!) and my my-way-or-the-highway logic, I suggest following the AP Stylebook on this — and nearly every other — punctuation snafu.

Add an ‘s to form the possessive of most singular and proper nouns, even when they end in a z or an x:

• Bear’s honey
• Jazz’s impact
• Max’s dinner
• Substance’s properties
• Trance’s hold

Exceptions occur when doing so would result in a difficult-to-pronounce s or z sound:

• Xerxes’ statue
• Moses’ journey
• For conscience’ sake (no ending s since the following word starts with an s)
• For appearance’ sake (no ending s since the following word starts with an s)

To form plurals into the possessive case, add ’s to words that do not end in an s and a lone apostrophe to those that do:

Women’s rights
• Data’s fallibility
• Spectators’ applause
• Witnesses’ testimony

To show joint possession, add ’s to the last member of the compound group; to show separate possession, add ’s to each member:

• Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure really happened, dude.
• Bill’s and Ted’s excellent adventures were astoundingly similar. Gnarly.

To show one or more deleted letters or numbers, add an apostrophe: It’s (It is), you’re (you are), they’re (they are), ’tis the season (it is the season), ne’er-do-well (never-do-well), mac ’n’ cheese (yummy), summer of ’67 (1967), the roaring ’20s (1920s). Please use with caution, as puttin’ a lot of ’em in yo’ writin’ can make y’ur writin’ seem like y’ur 8 years ol’, from the back country or from the ’hood (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you get my drift).

To show the plural of a single letter, use an apostrophe: Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Root for the Oakland A’s.

For you detail-crazy font-watchers, pay attention to the shape of the mark itself. There’s a difference between a curly apostrophe () and a straight one (). Although the vast majority of folks wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, the curly (aka “smart”) apostrophe and quotation marks should be reserved for words and quotations: He murmured, “Let’s get some tacos.” Use the straight (aka “dumb”) apostrophe and quotation marks strictly for measurements and dimensions: He’s 6′ 2″.

Caveat lector: See those straight marks? No? In the height of the guy above: He’s 6′ 2″. The foot and inch marks may or may not have shown up correctly on your computer as straight marks. The funny thing is that I wrote this entire article, blabbing about smart quotes, and didn’t realize I had an issue until I was previewing the document before hitting the Publish button. On my screen, none of the so-called smart quotes are true smart quotes; they are not curly, but simply angled. Well, that is a big problem with Internet writing. I asked one of the IT guys I work with about it, and he said that to get straight quotes consistently in an Internet-based document, I would have to jump through all sorts of computer hoops. Something about coding. And coding, my friends, is Greek to me. So — use your imagination. Those suckers are meant to be straight marks, vertical through and through.

Better yet, use those straight marks only in ultratechnical data. Otherwise, the AP Stylebook suggests writing out the dimensions: He is 6 feet 2 inches tall.

Unless you happen to have a crafty IT guy/gal at the ready, the easiest way to have smart quotes flow seamlessly into your copy is to go to the Preferences menu (AutoCorrect) of your word processing or design application and activate the “smart quotation marks” feature; they will be automatically substituted in newly typed text. Triple-check your work if you import text or copy and paste from somewhere else, though, because you may have to replace the dumb quotes manually.

If your smart quotes are not activated, you can find them another way if you snoop around your computer just a bit:

If you’re on a Mac, they are under Insert, Symbol …; just hunt, click, insert and — PRESTO! — straight mark, just as requested.
If you’re on a PC, go buy a Mac. Kidding.* (Since I’m a Mac gal, I’m not sure how to manually change straight quotes to curly on a PC — hey, I don’t lie.) Check your manual, or use the above-mentioned smart quotes feature.

OK, thats it for today. Hope you enjoyed this little romp through the apostrophes.

Happy trails!


*Only kind of.

March 3, 2009

Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon

Man. If ever a piece of punctuation brought out the über-moxie in people (usually wordsmiths of some sort, but frankly, all sorts of folks fit in this ire-inspiring category), the comma is it. It’s complicated. It follows several rules and then breaks them with a wink and a smile. It’s the top dog in the you’re-crazy-if-you-think-you-can-get-away-with-putting-that-THERE contest.

All sorts of stylebooks and writing guides have their own (slightly different) version of the comma rules. Since journalists tend to follow the AP Stylebook, and since most “ordinary” folks are familiar with journalistic writing (via newspapers and magazines), here’s the skinny on how to use the comma according to AP regulations.

Generally, commas correspond to the pauses we use in our speech to separate ideas and to help avoid ambiguity. Place a comma:

• Before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet) that joins two independent clauses, unless the clauses are short or have no internal punctuation: John would have gone to the store, but he couldn’t find his pants. John would have gone to the store if he had his pants, for he was completely out of strawberry milk, but his car keys were in his pocket, and his boxers were a little too shabby to wear in public.

• Around a nonrestrictive phrase — a phrase that can be deleted w/o changing the meaning of the sentence: The power of any vampire, whether practiced or inexperienced in blood-sucking, depends upon an invitation into the victim’s home.

• To separate members of a coordinate series of words, phrases or clauses if all the elements are not joined by coordinating conjunctions*: To make a proper mud pie, you need water, mud, a bowl and a stick.

*Notice that there is NOT a comma directly before the “and.” This is in accordance with AP Stylebook regulations. If you ask me, though, I think the AP folks are out of their grammatical minds. MLA’s version (comma before the and in a series) is the right and obviously morally correct way to do things, in my not-so-humble and loudly typed opinion; always using the comma before the and clears up every ambiguous instance. But AP rules the proverbial roost, so I enforce the lack of the comma in my work. I’ve even stopped cursing the AP gods under my breath every time I see the situation in copy. Apparently, time is the ultimate healer.

• Before the concluding conjunction in a series if an element in that series includes a conjunction: Sue ordered a greyhound, a whiskey sour, a wheat beer, and a gin and tonic that night. (Some would argue that the second and, joining gin and tonic, should be changed to an ampersand (&). AP, and thus I, argues against it; the ampersand should only be used if it’s officially in the name of something, such as a company (e.g., Johnson & Johnson).

My parting gift to you: One way to tell whether or not you need a comma between adjectives is to consider the weight of each adjective. Try to add an and between the adjectives. If it works and still makes sense, the comma is necessary: a small, red dog = a small and red dog. If it doesn’t, the comma doesn’t belong: He went to a large public school (no comma after large).

And one last thing: Please don’t give me too much grief about the title of this entry. It is quite obvious, I know, but I couldn’t help myself. I grew up, in part, in the ’80s, so please don’t taunt me too much about my silly, nostalgic pun. My inner child will thank you for it.

Happy trails!


February 13, 2009

Onomatopoeia: ZOINKS!

Facebook may be a pariah of the Internet to some folks, but I find it a great connector and writing tool. Take, for example, my previous blog entry. I posted a link to it on my Facebook page, and a gal I knew in high school (back in the day, don’t ya know) commented on it and, in doing so, mentioned her great love for onomatopoeia. PRESTO! I had a new blog topic.

Now, onomatopoeia is one of those words that you either cringe at when you see it in print because it means you’ll have to whip out the ol’ dictionary to figure out what the heck it means or you giggle with glee because there’s no way to forget what this enormous word means once you’ve learned it. Or, as is my experience, you giggle because you know you’ve looked it up before and you think you know what it means but you go ahead and look it up again, cringing, just in case your memory has failed you.

Luckily for my ego, my memory was functioning just fine, this time.

So. What exactly is this crazy-looking word?

Read the entire article at Bloody Well Write’s new home.

February 3, 2009

A lot of loot

So you’re writing about how much something costs. Let’s say your topic is widgets. But not just any widgets; your widgets are headed to the U.S. government warehouses. So we know that these are extraordinarily special widgets, since they cost somewhere between $3 and $7 million dollars per box of 20.

Wait. What did that say? How much are those widgets, exactly?

Here’s a problem that occurs in all sorts of writing. Can some of those boxes of widgets really be only $3 (three dollars) if some are $7 million ($7,000,000)? I’d bet not — and I’m not a betting woman. The more likely range is $3 million – $7 million. If that’s the case, then you must attach the word million to each monetary figure.

“But hold on, missy,” you say. “Adding that clunky word twice messes up the design of my brilliant headline/subhead/copy.” Sorry, I retort, but them’s the rules and there’s no eliminating it.

There is, however, a way to get that million (or thousand or billion) in there. You can use abbreviations:
• M (million)
• K (thousand)
• G (billion — although most people don’t know what the G stands for, so a rewrite might be in order)

Keep in mind that using K to represent 1,000 or $1,000 is against AP Stylebook rules; K already has other meanings, such as modem transmission speeds (56K) or race distances (5K). Ad folks love to break rules, though, so if it’s purely a design issue and it’s purely cosmetic (i.e., not in technical copy), and since a boatload of dictionaries state that it’s an acceptable substitution, I suppose you can go ahead and break the AP rule. There, I said it. Just don’t spread it around. I have a reputation to uphold.

OK. What else about that first statement stunk? Here it is, in part, again:

… they cost somewhere between $3 and $7 million dollars per box of 20.

You see the dollar signs? Using those means that you don’t have to also use the word dollars. It’s redundant. The word dollars is great if you “need a few dollars” (unspecified amount). Attach a figure and dollars goes out the window. Same goes for million and billion: If it’s a casual use, don’t add numbers: I need a billion dollars.

If you need a specific amount that’s in the millions or billions, use up to two decimal points: I need $4.75 million to fund my dream home. Shy away from using fractions with such large amounts of cash (e.g., don’t use $4¾ million). If you want to be more accurate, use the exact number: I need $4,750,391 to fund my dream home.

If those aren’t enough rules for you for one day, here’s one more: Do not use a hyphen to join the figures and the words million or billion. It should be: This $295 million house budget just isn’t cutting the mustard. And if that’s the case, I’d like you to hire me as your interior decorator.

Now that that’s off my chest, I feel a thousand times better.

Happy trails!


January 7, 2009

You betcha

Filed under: grammar,Jajo — bloodywellwrite @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been brought to my attention that there is some confusion around the office about when to use “yea” instead of “yeah” and vice versa. I threw “yay” into the mix, as well. Total anarchy almost ensued.

Here’s my take on the three Y’s.

Use this if you’re trying to sound like you’re in a courtroom (“Hear ye, hear ye. The yeas have it — free upper-back massages for everyone!”) or if you’re trying your hand at back-in-the-day readings (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall wear supportive shoes”).

This is the lazy — er, offhanded — way of saying “yes.” My mom gave me years of grief for saying “yeah” (“yeow” as she gawkily pronounced it for emphasis), to no avail. I still say it constantly. Doesn’t make it right. I get that. My bad. But unless you’re in the stuffiest of situations, such as suffering through a job interview (and it’s up to you to judge the stuffiness of the interviewer) or giving a political acceptance speech to your constituency (not à la “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?”), “yeah” is perfectly acceptable.

This is the exclamatory way to say, “Right on!” “That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!” “Woohoo!” “Flippin’ genius!” or “Oh, snap!” You get the drift.

As an aside, it’s the nature of the English language to be completely difficult to comprehend. For every rule, there seems to be 18 different exceptions. So goes it for the 3 Y’s.

Think about the “yea” definition I provided. If it’s “The yeas have it,” why is the negative side of that chant “The nays have it”? Why not “The neas have it”? That’s bogus English for you. And I don’t have a reasonable explanation. Irks me to no end. If you happen to know the answer, send it my way.

That’s the end of today’s rant. Yay!

Happy trails!


November 20, 2008


OK! So this is the very first word/grammar/language/writing/editing/ranting/pondering blog coming out of the editorial/writing nook at Jajo Inc., the grooviest ad agency in town (not meant to be a plug — simply my opinion, thank you very much).

I suppose that I should mention what this blog is going to be about. The intent is to focus primarily on editing issues — nuggets I have seen throughout my career that either come up as questions time and again, bug the bejeezus out of me or simply are wrong by all accounts. It sometimes will include writing issues, as well. And it sometimes will take me in an altogether different direction than initially intended. So be the beast that is blog.

To spice things up a bit, this blog will go sonic: An accompanying podcast will be floating around the Net — perhaps not quite as often as the blog, but relatively frequent, so check it out. Once I get into the groove, I’ll post a schedule. The current idea is to blog one or two times per week and podcast once every week or two.

Adding fuel to the podcast fire will be Jason Fortune, copywriter extraordinaire, fellow Jajo cohort and general lunatic. Similar to many a lunatic, Jason is as entertaining as can be — if you can follow his thought trail. It’s all over the place. He definitely has moments of genius, so we’ll try to capture some of those during the course of our discourse.

Me? I’ll be playing the straight man in this schtick. And if you’re wondering what makes me an expert on this editing/writing topic, here’s my answer: I’m no expert. I will have an entire blog entry on self-proclaimed experts one of these days, but that’s for another day. Here’s a quick rundown of my experience: master’s degree in English, 5½ years as a proofreader/copy editor at a local ad agency, 2½ years as a marketing copywriter at Hallmark, going on a year here at the ’Jo as editor/copywriter and several years as a proofreader/editor at several other joints. And I, like everyone else on this planet, have a lot to learn, so I’m not an expert, per se. But I follow the AP Stylebook pretty faithfully (pretty, not completely). And I gotta let out some editing steam somehow, right? So this here blog’s my virtual teapot. Toot, toot.

Thanks much for checking it out, and please come back to see what else is driving me nuts. Again, I’ll be adding entries at least weekly, perhaps biweekly — more on schedules to come. And PLEASE leave comments/suggestions/inquiries on the blog. No cussing me out (for I do have control on what gets posted to the site and will have no qualms about barring any caustic replies); workable feedback is what I’m looking for. And don’t forget to tune in to the podcast. Should be interesting stuff. Now, on to the guts of this blog.

Happy trails!


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