Grammar Should Brand Names and Product Names Be Capitalized? |
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Should Brand Names and Product Names Be Capitalized?

You might know that many regular words are capitalized only in titles or at the beginning of sentences, and that certain proper nouns are always capitalized. But what about company brands or specific product names? How do you know when to capitalize them? If you’ve ever wondered, keep reading.

The Essential Rules on Capitalizing Brand and Product Names

Always capitalize any brand name that is trademarked or particularly well-known (e.g., Coke, Pepsi). Unless they are in titles or at the start of sentences, lowercase descriptive or generic product names (e.g., coffee, sugar, tissue).

In practical terms, this means you would capitalize Apple but not the following descriptive word computer (Apple computer).

Let’s look at more examples:

I bought some Post-it notes at the store. (recognized trademarked brand name)

Could you pick up some sticky notes at the office supply store? (generic product name)

Putting the two principles together, you could end up with a sentence such as this one:

Would you please pick up some sticky notes when you go into OfficeMax? (generic product name with a branded company name)

These guidelines are typically easy to follow. In many cases, you can probably tell from your own intuition when a brand or product name is a proper noun that should be capitalized.

The Finer Points of Product Name Capitalization

In considering whether to capitalize a product name, there is a finer point to keep in mind.

Some brand names have become big and common enough that their products have come to define an entire industry or category. For this reason, some trademarked brand names have drifted into nondistinct categories written in lowercase.

For example, when it was first released, a “Refrigerator” was a trademarked product from Frigidaire. In the years since, so many people used the same word to refer to any appliance that kept food cool for storage that “Refrigerator” lost its distinction. Today, you probably notice that the word “refrigerator” appears as a lowercased noun in most references.

In a more current example, many editors would argue that the word “Google” can refer to the company or as a lowercased verb, google. The second instance (without capitalization) would refer to the act of looking up something on the internet, even if it was done through a search engine other than Google itself.

In general, these kinds of grammatical gray areas are easy enough to work out. Whenever you encounter questions of brand names and trademarks about which you are unsure, your best bet is to refer to a brand’s or company’s trademark information on its website. You can also consult with a trademark attorney if needed.

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2 responses to “Should Brand Names and Product Names Be Capitalized?”

  1. Robin says:

    If I refer to a company named the “Nashville Surgery Center” as “the surgery center,” do I capitalize the S and the C or leave them lowercase?

    • says:

      When you refer back to a proper noun using a shortened version of the original name, you may capitalize it.

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