Your Product/Service Names: Keeping Proper Nouns Proper

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it sure does confuse the gardeners. Standard names for products and services are essential for any business. It’s easy for a product name to slide from FAST Dataset to FAST Data Sets to FASTData but your customers will wonder if they are receiving one product or three.

A name, a proper noun, indicates a specific person, place or thing (TWP Marketing & Technical Communications versus marketing and technical communications companies in general). Whether or not you have trademarked your company’s products and services, you should spell and capitalize their names consistently.

When your product or service includes a keyword (such as marketing ) that appears frequently in your content, you should lower-case the word when it is not a proper noun (part of the official name). For example, “TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing and technical content for customers.” Capitalizing “technical content” would imply a product or service name rather than generic words.

Here’s a sample paragraph with too many capitals: Like Bolding and Italics, constant Capitals lose their effect. If every Noun is an upper case Noun, then how is anyone to distinguish Your Proprietary Company Name, Products and Services from every other Generic Object in the World? If Everything is Capitalized, what is important and what isn’t?

Acronyms are another source of random capitalization. You do not need to capitalize every word that is the basis for an acronym. For example, take the FAST Dataset (FDS) product. The word “dataset” should not be capitalized in a sentence like this: “all your datasets (DS) are re-organized.” Even though DS is an acronym in both cases, in the first case it is the acronym for a proper noun (FAST Dataset); in the second case, it is the acronym for a generic noun (“datasets”).

Even if the use and misuse of capitals seems nitpicky, you have to look at your content from the user’s viewpoint. Capitals are a reading clue; they alert readers to the start of a new sentence, a proper noun, an acronym or an important concept (FREE!). When capitals are misused or overused, they become an annoyance. They lose their status as clues, directing the reader’s eye to the information you want them to remember.