Tag Archives: job communication skills

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 Spot Redundancies

I have a thing about redundancies.

They are a grammar pet peeve I’ve blogged about before, but the world apparently hasn’t gotten my message.

I’m not giving up, darn it!

A redundant word is one that could be omitted without loss of meaning; it repeats something already written or said.

We are in communication mode day in, day out. The least we can do in our word-dense world is to avoid extra words that add neither meaning nor clarity to our messages.

My guideline for spotting a redundancy:
Consider what using its opposite would do to the sentence.

Here are my latest real-world examples. The second sentence of each will help you spot the redundancy in the first that should be omitted. Continue

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When Does ‘and’ Need a Comma?

“We’re judged by the way we write and speak,” I often say.

Jeff Rubin, who founded National Punctuation Day in 2004, agrees:

“People judge us by the way we present ourselves — how we act, how we look, how we speak and how we write. When we are professional in all of these areas, we get our feet in the door for our choice of college, scholarship, job, promotion or business deal. If you’re unprofessional in any of these areas, it can cost you.”

As National Punctuation Day approaches — Monday, Sept. 24 — I’m sharing what I’ve found online about which punctuation mark is misused most often. Continue

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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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Book Titles and More: Underline, Quotation Marks or Italics?

In the typewriter age, titles were set off with quotation marks or underlining:

“Charlotte’s Web”

To Kill a Mockingbird

Underlining seems ancient today. Typographer and design expert Robin Williams puts it this way:

“Never underline. Underlining is for typewriters.”

How, then, should you denote book, magazine, movie and song titles, CDs and works of art, poems and websites? What about book chapters, magazine articles, speeches and statues? Style guides differ, but here are general guidelines. Continue

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One Space or Two? Contemporary Keyboarders Rule!

A recent email from an aspiring author had two spaces at the end of each sentence. Among the suggestions I gave her about publishing was to change the double spaces to single spaces throughout her manuscript. (Microsoft Word makes this easy with the FIND and REPLACE function under the toolbar’s Edit choice.)

Seeing two spaces after a period or other closing punctuation can hint at a writer’s age. If you learned keyboarding on a computer, you most likely learned that one space at the end of a sentence is the rule. If you learned keystrokes on a typewriter, you might be dating yourself by continuing the double-space habit. Continue

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Headline Lessons: Contractions, Redundancies, Verb Forms

HeadlinesToday is a holiday in the U.S. — The Fourth of July (Independence Day) — so many of you probably are not in your office or at your computer.

But my email list is not limited to U.S. residents, so I went to my latest collection of headlines to develop a post for those of you who are toiling through this American holiday.

Headlines and the grammar lessons they teach


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Comma Quandary: Oxford Pro and Con

Oxford_comma_thumbs_up_downThe controversy rages on … or does it limp along?

What’s it going to be: The Oxford comma … or not?

Since college journalism classes, I have followed the guidelines of the Associated Press Stylebook. AP instructs there should be just one comma in a simple series of three:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white and blue.

However, those who prefer the Oxford (or serial) comma would write it as:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white, and blue.

Although I preach consistency, using AP style creates inconsistency when it notes that a second comma may be added in some circumstances to improve clarity.

Of late, I’ve found myself slowly leaning toward Oxford style, but I retain the right to use AP when I choose — a choice that depends on the client and the document or project.

You have a choice as well. I like this summary that appeared on DailyWritingTips.com, which I have permission to repost here. Continue

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News Flash: Yesssss! You MAY Split Your Infinitives!

Knowing how I follow developments in the grammar universe, a colleague sent me a recent article from The Economist, a British publication with international coverage and subscribers.

Started in Scotland in 1843, The Economist now claims a reputation for “a distinctive blend of news based on fact, and analysis incorporating The Economist’s perspective.”

The change in The Economist’s style guide that warranted my colleague’s attention relates to the use of infinitives. The editors have declared — at long last — that infinitives may indeed be split. Continue

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Splish, Splash … How to Use the Slash

We all recognize the slash (/) as an integral part of a URL, the Uniform Resource Locater affiliated with website addresses: http://www.RuthlessEditor.com

The slash has other useful applications in personal and business writing, and it has other names: solidus, slant, diagonal, virgule, forward slash, front slash, oblique stroke, shill.

The slash generally does not require a space on either side of it. (Exception: when used to show separate lines of poetry, songs or plays.*)

Here’s how and where to use the slash appropriately. Continue

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