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 16, 2009

The en dash and em dash or How two goldfish came into — and quickly exited — my pre-wedding life

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love fish (as pets) and those who, uh, don’t really get it. The same might be said for dashes; some people love ’em like mad, and some people, uh, don’t really get ’em.

Me? I fall into opposite camps. I don’t really get the whole fish-as-pets thing. They’re sort of cool to watch for a while, but fish can’t snuggle. Fish can’t cheer you up by nuzzling your cheek when you’ve had a bad day. Fish can’t wake you up by walking up and down, up and down your legs.

On the other hand, I totally get dashes. I think they are fabulous. They clarify. They add visual interest. They inadvertently amuse by infuriating the designers you work with. They give your brain a tweak while you’re writing.

What’s the fuss? Heck, what’s the real story? (There is a story here, but I’ll get to the fish later.)

There are two kinds of dashes: en dashes and em dashes. (Hyphens are not really dashes and are thus relegated to a separate entry.) The em dash began as the length of a “typical” m and the en dash began as the length of a “typical” n. These length conventions are not necessarily followed in these days of a gazillion font styles. When using an em dash, though, almost always include a space on each side of the dash. (Attributions are exempt.)

The em dash is used to set off parenthetical statements. Although commas and parentheses can be used for the same function, the em dash is — by far — the most emphatic separator of the three. It can also indicate a sharp transition: The coyote must attempt to catch the roadrunner — but at what cost?
The em dash can also be used for a series within a phrase: His menu listed the pies — pumpkin, blueberry and mud — that he made weekly.

Use the em dash in attributions, without a space: Oh, I don’t think I’m a lot dumber than you think that I thought I was once. —Ben Stiller as White Goodman in “Dodgeball”

The en dash is used in ranges:
• 45–50 clowns
• 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
• Ages 2–3
• November–December 1967

The en dash is also used in relationships, including compound adjective situations. These usages, however, can depend on your level of comfort in deviating from AP Stylebook guidelines. AP does not recognize en dashes as valid. So in the following instances, a plain, ol’ hyphen will suffice, but the more adventurous writers (and designers) can use the en dash for a slightly more fine-tuned approach:

• KU beat Nebraska 76–39 (whoomp!)
• New York–London flight
• A 5–4 vote

As far as I know — and that’s not very far when a PC’s concerned — there are no shortcuts to create an en or em dash on a PC. Here’s how to create the dashes via computer longhand for both a PC and a Mac:

• Go to Insert in the program menu and open up Symbol.
• Highlight the appropriate dash located there.
• Click on Insert.

Macs do have shortcuts, so you don’t have to move your mouse around through various windows.
Here’s how to create the dashes on a Mac:

En: Option+hyphen
Em: Shift+option+hyphen

Gee, I almost feel as if I could pass for IT support sometimes. Lasts for about three seconds before my head starts to implode.

So — what’s my big fish story?

Well, I was working at another ad agency in town when I became engaged (to one of the agency IT guys — OK, you got me). Our co-workers threw us a shower, and one gal — the one we all fondly referred to as Martha Stewart because she was crazy-creative in all creative endeavors — gave us a pair of goldfish. She had already named them En Dash and Em Dash, in my honor as the agency editor-proofreader. Cool, funky gift, not to be forgotten.

En Dash and Em Dash

En Dash and Em Dash in better days

I took them home in their baggies and put them into a small bowl. The next morning, I thought it would be a good idea to give them some fresh water. Fresh water is good, right? Right, I thought. I went to work and came home. My roommate told me to look at the fish, because they were “hanging out” at the bottom of the bowl. Well, they couldn’t be dead, I thought, because dead means floating, right? Right.

I looked at the bowl. Those fish weren’t floating, that’s for sure. But they were sideways. At the bottom of the bowl. Not swimming. Just … sideways. Ugh. I had killed En Dash and Em Dash, in less than 24 hours.

Imagine my horror at finding out that you can’t just use tap water for fish. How the heck was I supposed to know that, the fish virgin that I was? I felt horrible. So burial was my responsibility for these two unlucky souls. I took them to my roommate’s bathroom and — whoosh — they were gone. Just couldn’t bring myself to flush them down my own toilet. Isn’t that nuts?

I never told our Martha Stewart friend. I couldn’t bare the embarrassment, frankly. Now, almost six years later, I’m hoping that, if and when she reads this entry, she can forgive me for being such a cad. SD, I’m sorry!

OK, that’s it for today. I’m going to go re-mourn the loss of the goldfish while listening to some em dash–free Arlo.

Happy trails!


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