Capitalize iPad or eBay to Start Sentence?

iPhone_orIPhoneMost of us know to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. It’s one of the few written-in-stone grammar rules.

But what about the i in iPhone or the e in eBay? Aren’t those registered brand names?

Do you write “iPhone prices will drop this fall” or “IPhone prices will drop this fall”?

Associated Press

The AP Stylebook suggests within a sentence to follow the spelling and capitalization preferred by the company, but to capitalize a lowercase first letter if it starts a sentence.

    • Prices for iPhones will drop this fall.
    • IPhone prices will drop this fall.

Chicago Manual of Style

This popular style guide says that names of companies or products that are spelled with a lowercase letter followed by a capital letter (eBay, iPad, iPhone, etc.) need not be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence.

However, it also notes that some editors might prefer to reword the sentence, as I did with the iPhone example above.

American Psychological Association

This style guide, which is preferred by writers in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, offers these guidelines:

    • If a name that begins with a lowercase letter starts a sentence, it should be capitalized:

De Waal (not de Waal) concluded …

    • If a product’s first letter is lowercase, avoid beginning a sentence with its name:

Consider: An iPad … or The iPad … The multinational e-commerce giant eBay …

Apple often leads with company name

In my search for a press release that began with iPhone or iPad, I found that most releases from the company begin with Apple, the corporate entity:

Apple unveils … Apple announces … Apple previews …

However, I did find this June 2019 headline exception:

watchOS 6 advances health and fitness capabilities for Apple Watch

But the coverage that follows begins:

Apple today previewed watchOS 6, which empowers Apple Watch users to better manage their health and fitness, and gives access to dynamic new watch faces and the App Store directly on Apple Watch.

eBay opts to use name as registered

Consider this July 2019 press release from eBay, the multinational e-commerce corporation based in San Jose, Calif., that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website:

eBay is introducing Managed Delivery, a cost-effective fulfillment service to launch next year in the U.S. that will provide shoppers faster and more reliable delivery on millions of popular products.

Lowercase logos

As I was conducting online research, I found a number of examples of company logos that now use all lowercase letters: ebay, amazon, mastercard, intel, cisco and pepsi

Here is a fascinating look at the evolution of the seven iterations of the Pepsi-Cola logo, from an elaborate script font to a minimalist one-word, all-lowercase pepsi.

Why the transition to an all-lowercase logo? Some consider them friendlier.

In an article in the Arizona Republic, Patti Williams, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, notes, “Logos have become less official-looking and more conversational,” a concept that has popularized the use of all lowercase for the logo font and taglines.

Consider the popularity and longevity of McDonald’s all-lowercase tagline “i’m lovin’ it.”

Choose your style and be consistent

As with any usage that prompts questions, I suggest making a decision and sticking with it. Readers appreciate consistency.

The other reliable option: If you can’t decide whether to capitalize a letter that usually appears as lowercase, rewrite the sentence.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)