Tech Check: How to Best Write Today’s New Technology Terms

Today’s fast-moving world of online technology is creating new words as quickly as it is new innovations to change the ways we publish content. Yet, PR pros lack one comprehensive resource to turn to and check the spelling and capitalization of these words. Stylebooks and dictionaries cannot be updated nearly as quickly as these new words arise and evolve.

In my role as editor, I frequently come across confusion related these terms, and here I’ve pulled together the latest insights of some of the leading grammar and style blogs and online publications to shed light on the best ways to write these newer tech terms.

Do any of these cause confusion for you? . . .

BlackBerry – Remember this name has an internal capital “B” and its plural form is “BlackBerrys” — not “BlackBerries.” The latter is because “BlackBerry” is a brand name whose spelling is preserved as much as possible and therefore doesn’t follow the normal plural formation for words that end in “y.”

e-reader – Companies such as Barnes & Noble and Kobo use the spelling “eReader,” but the correct spelling for a generic device used to display electronic books (or e-books) is with a hyphen and a lowercase “r.”

Foursquare – This name is all one word with one capital letter at the beginning. The proliferation of company names with a middle capital letter (e.g., JetBlue, PepsiCo) has apparently led some people to think that “Foursquare” has a capital “s,” but this not the case. 

Google+ – Media are split when it comes to including punctuation in the names of companies in which punctuation is used. For example, many well-edited publications don’t include the exclamation point with “Yahoo” and “Yum Brands,” but most do include the asterisk in “E*Trade” rather than spell it “E-Trade.” Although it’s still early to make a definitive style decision, so far, the spelling “Google+” – with the “+” – by far outnumbers the spelling “Google Plus” for this new social networking site. Therefore, this is the best spelling to use for now.

iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes – The first letter of these words and similarly spelled names (“eBay,” “iVillage”) is lowercased, but not at the beginning of sentences. The sentences-begin-with-capitals rule supersedes all brand name conventions. Accordingly, “IPads are on sale” is the correct way to write a sentence that starts with this kind of name.

Internet, intranet – Although “Internet” is increasingly being written as “internet” in technology and digital media circles, according to Associated Press style, the style used by most professional media outlets, and other authoritative language guides, it is still considered a proper noun and should not be written with a lowercase “i.” Also, the term “intranet” refers to a private network inside an organization and should always be lowercased.

QR code – Because the full words in the abbreviation for this small square barcode image are not spelled out frequently, it may be helpful to know that “QR” stands for “quick response.” When it is spelled out, the capitalization of “quick response” is in evolution, and there is not a definitive style rule for it yet. While a few media outlets, such as the New York Times capitalize this word, a majority of outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News, do not.

tweet – This word is properly lowercased. Although the name that “tweet” is taken from — “Twitter” — is capitalized as a trademark, this doesn’t mean that the trademark extends to other parts of speech of this word. Thus, while an argument could be made for the capitalization of a direct descendant of “Twitter” — such as “Twittered” — “tweet” is a related word not subject to trademark status and therefore is lowercased.