Editorial: The Engadget style guide reaches a MILESTONE

Nilay Patel
N. Patel|11.30.09

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Editorial: The Engadget style guide reaches a MILESTONE

So last week the New York Times Magazine published a piece called "Against Camel Case" which argues that intercapped product names like iPhone and TiVo are "medieval," because they harken back to a time in which people mostly read aloud, slowly sounding out each word as they tried to understand them. Proper word spacing, says the Times, "eventually made possible phenomena like irony, pornography and freedom of conscience."

That's sort of a crazy coincidence -- while we're not so sure word spacing and porn have anything to do with each other, we did just re-do our style guide when we launched our jazzy new redesign, and we actually thought long and hard about how to handle intercapped, all-capped, and otherwise non-standard product names. This is something we deal with a hundred times a day, and we simply weren't going to let Motorola tell us to write MILESTONE over and over again, completely contradicting our own sense of style and taste -- as the Times says, "Writers of the world, fight back!" Well, we can't say no to that, so we thought we'd share our four newly-minted rules for writing out non-standard product names:

  1. Product and company names that are regular English words shall be treated like proper English nouns, complete with proper capitalization. Example: DROID becomes Droid and nook becomes Nook.
  2. Product and company names that are not regular English words shall be capitalized first as proper nouns, and then as the company treats them. Example: RAZR stays RAZR, but chumby would become Chumby.
  3. Intercapped product and company names should generally be treated as the company treats them, unless it's egregious and / or looks weird. Example: iPhone stays iPhone, BlackBerry stays BlackBerry and TiVo stays TiVo, but ASUSTeK becomes Asustek. This rule is subject to many exceptions based on usage and history, and also functions as the "this is stupid" loophole.
  4. Acronyms should obviously be in all-caps.

We think these rules are flexible to handle most situations, although there are some edge cases and blatant Rule 3 violations out there. Still, it's a start -- unlike the Times, we're pretty sure "iPhone" and "MasterCard" are here to stay, but we feel like our rules are a small step towards making our site clearer and more readable. Either that, or we're just crazy in the head.
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