Tag Archives: capitalization

Can Google Be a Verb?

woman thinking about Google searchAs is the case with many nouns in the English language, frequent usage dictates that Google has evolved to a status of both a noun and a verb.

As a noun, Google is a search engine you can use to find a variety of online information. As a proper noun (a specific person, place or thing) and a trademark, it is capitalized.

As a verb, google is the action of using the search engine Google to find information on the internet. When used as a verb, google can be capitalized or expressed in lowercase letters.

Example: If you want to know who founded Google, just google it!
(Answer: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in case you really want to know.)

When it comes to grammar, I often say that I choose to not be on the forefront of change. But my research shows that google (lowercase) was officially considered a verb by the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2006. Adopting usage 12-plus years after it was considered acceptable is hardly on the forefront of change.

History: Google attempts to protect trademark
In 2013, Google took legal steps to stop Sweden’s Language Council from adding “ungoogleable” to its list of new words. Its meaning: something that can’t be found on the Web using a search engine — any search engine.

An attorney specializing in trademark rights and representing Google noted:

Ironically, because of Google’s “significant brand recognition,” the company has started down the path of becoming synonymous with search engine services and, accordingly, towards the genericization of a trademark.

Genericization? Who’s quibbling about language use here?

He pointed out that becoming a generic is bad, because it threatens a company’s legal right to a trademark. (A quiz in my book tests readers on brand names Band-Aid, Crock-Pot, Fiberglas, Formica, Jacuzzi, Jell-O, Kleenex, Popsicle and Q-tips.)

Google’s noun / verb concerns date to 2006
A Google blogger expressed the company’s concerns in a 2006 post about the use of Google as a verb:

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device that identifies a particular company’s products or services. Google is a trademark identifying Google Inc. and our search technology and services. While we’re pleased that so many people think of us when they think of searching the web, let’s face it, we do have a brand to protect, so we’d like to make clear that you should please only use “Google” when you’re actually referring to Google Inc. and our services.

But a representative of Merriam-Webster countered this claim in the 2013 NBC article mentioned above:

There are three criteria for a word making it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Widespread usage of a word, “sustained use” and “meaningful use.

By the time we did the copyright printing of the Collegiate Dictionary for 2006, we had enough evidence in our files to show that the verb “google” had met all three criteria for entry. It’s worth noting that the verb “google” dates back to at least 1998, according to recent information we’ve gathered.

Google not the only brand to become a verb
These products became verbs decades ago. Using them as verbs in advertising jingles probably promoted their use in everyday language of the time.

1920s–‘30s Motorist wise, Simoniz (car wax)
1940s Hoovering or hoover up the carpet (clean with a Hoover vacuum cleaner)
1960s Ziebart your new car yet? (rustproofing)
1960s Go Krogering (shop at Kroger grocery stores)

Many definitions use examples to show that certain forms of a word might be nonstandard or incorrect.

For example, some sources say to capitalize Google whether using it as a noun or a verb because it’s a trademark (Associated Press). Other sources show it in lowercase as a verb (Oxford).

When you use Google / google as a verb, you have a choice. Make your decision and stay with it for consistency — at least throughout a blog, emails, an internal newsletter, or a corporate entity’s communications in general, as organizations often have differing internal style guides.

Google as a verb is entrenched in our everyday language. It’s recognized by, among others, Merriam-Webster, Oxford, Macmillan, Cambridge, Dictionary.com and Wikipedia. Whether you google, googled, are googling, have googled or will google, join me in considering it an acceptable way to describe an online search.

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How to Create and Punctuate Bullet Points

bullet_pointsBullet points help readers scan what you’ve written, quickly drawing attention to key issues and facts. They can tell readers what needs to be done, provide step-by-step instructions, highlight important elements, or list features.

Bullets can be round, square, triangular, diamond, or even customized or whimsical graphics. When listing steps to take, numbers can serve as bullet points to emphasize the correct sequence.

There are no fixed rules of grammar about how to use bullet points, but here are some guidelines. Continue

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Grammar Rules Worth Breaking? You Decide

couple_disagree_grammarA former colleague sent me a link to Grammar Rules You Should Break in Business by Steve Yastrow. I agree with some of Yastrow’s suggestions and disagree with others.

What do you think?

Where We Agree, Disagree

Yastrow begins, “A language works according to a shared set of understood rules, which change over time as language evolves.” Continue

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French fries or french fries? How to Capitalize Food Names

www.RuthlessEditor.comI thought the geographic locations of food names such as French (fries), Swiss (cheese) and Russian (dressing) always were capitalized. I just learned that this Ruthless Editor was wrong … sort of.

When searching online for clarification, I found this wonderful post on one of my favorite websites: grammarphobia.com

Hosted by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, it provides a comprehensive explanation of what to capitalize when.

The post: How to Capitalize Food Names Continue

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Graduation Grammar: Alumn, Cum Laude, Emeritus … And More

www.RuthlessEditor.comSpring brings graduations, along with confusion about use and misuse of related terms. Let’s clear up a few.

Do you say: “Seth graduated Harvard University last week.”

What about: “Becca will graduate Clemmons High School in May.”

Neither is correct. Why? Continue

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Happy New Year (or new year?) 2017!

new_year_2017Happy New Year! … almost.

Starting a new year poses two grammatical challenges: First, how do we refer to the exact time we begin a new year?

The answer: not 12:00 p.m., not 12:00 a.m., not 12 midnight, but simply midnight.

A favorite grammar site, grammarphobia.com, concurs with my primary reference, The Associated Press Stylebook: Continue

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Got Grammar Pet Peeves? You’re Not Alone

annoyed_grammar_pet_peevesI invited those of you on my email list to share your grammar pet peeves, and the results are in!

First: What is grammar? Grammar encompasses the words we choose and how we punctuate them — how we string them together.

Words give our sentences meaning, and punctuation marks tell us when to pause or stop, when to raise our voice or show emotion, when we’re asking a question versus making a statement.

Here are your pet peeves: ways others speak and write that you find annoying. They’re alphabetized so you can skim and select what interests or resonates with you. I’ve commented here and there and added examples. Continue

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What Do You Say: Lie Or Lay?

lie-vs-lay-on-beachDo you lie down or lay down? Do you lie the book on the table or lay the book on the table?

Lie vs. lay is one of our most confusing word choices.

You might want to lie down when you finish reading this blog, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. I’m counting on my examples to help you make the right choices. Continue

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When To Capitalize Groups: Board, Company, Department, Committee

Organizations sometimes have their own writing style for internal documents — board of directors meetings Organizations sometimes have their own style guide for internal documents — annual reports, board of directors meetings notes, newsletters or emails, for example — in which capitalization use varies from external public documents.

For example, you might see Bank or Company capitalized throughout an internal piece, even in absence of the full official name.

The following guidelines will help you know when, in general, to capitalize and when to use lower case for business-related terms. Continue

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