Editors are often faced with tough questions. For example, which of the two sentences below is punctuated correctly:
- The corporation Yum! owns Taco Bell.
- The corporation Yum owns Taco Bell.
Thankfully, this particular question rarely comes up, but if you’re a freelance business writer and editor like me, you might need to write about a company whose legal name ends with an ending punctuation mark (period, question mark, and exclamation point) and be faced with a few dilemmas.
And if you’re a small business owner or work in a company whose name or one or more of its products or services ends with a punctuation mark, you’d likely be faced with the problem on a daily basis.
Should you treat the punctuation mark as an intrinsic part of the proper name? If yes, you’d write something like Yum! owns Taco Bell.
Should you treat the last character as a punctuation mark and drop it when writing the name? If yes, you’d write something like Yum owns Taco Bell.
There is precedence for each choice. Prior to 2013, The Economist magazine chose to follow the first approach. In 2013, the magazine decided to instead follow the second approach. See Yum! no more for an explanation of why they decided to make the change.
If you choose the first approach, you’re showing respect to the company’s branding. If you choose the second approach, you’re, like the Economist, essentially deciding it’s more important to reduce distractions that could keep your reader from understanding the meaning of your sentence than to respect the company’s legal name and branding.
Handling Company Names with Punctuation Marks at the End of Sentences
If you decide to go with the second approach, you face an additional set of problems when the name appears at the end of a sentence. Consider these examples:
- Two companies whose legal names end with an exclamation point are Yum! and Yahoo!
- Two companies whose legal names end with an exclamation point are Yum! and Yahoo!.
- Two companies whose legal names end with an exclamation point are Yum! and Yahoo.
- Two companies whose legal names end with an exclamation point are Yum and Yahoo.
Example 1 indicates you know there should be only one ending punctuation mark at the end of a sentence and that seeing two ending punctuation marks side-by-side, as in example 2, will be jarring to some readers.
Example 2 indicates you’re showing consistency by treating the exclamation point as a part of the name no matter where it appears in the sentence and are using a second punctuation mark to tell the reader this sentence is a statement not an exclamation.
Example 3 indicates you’re compromising. You’re showing respect to the company’s branding when the name appears in the middle of a sentence, but also recognize that (1) side-by-side ending punctuation is distracting and (2) ending punctuation—especially exclamation points and question marks, because they’re used less often than periods—carry added subconscious impact and meaning.
Example 4 indicates you’re ignoring each company’s legal name in favor of obeying standard English punctuation rules that help readers understand sentence meaning.
It’s a Matter of Style
The problem with names like these is there is no universally accepted rule. There are pros and cons for each of the examples above.
One solution to how to treat company names and services with ending punctuation is to check the company’s own website. Does the company include the punctuation mark in their marketing material? If they have press releases, check those too. Chances are they use the ending punctuation in their marketing material, but remove that punctuation in the more formal setting of press releases and general business prose.
Another option is to decide for yourself what approach you want to use in your own writing. If you’re a business writer or editor, you might follow an external guide like The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, or Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Unfortunately, none of those specifically address this particular question.
The most important things to consider are your audience and purpose. Choose the approach that you believe will most accurately and consistently convey the meaning you want your audience to receive. After making that decision, record it in a company or document style guide and refer to the guide when and if faced with the choice later on.
Based on my own experience and knowledge, I’ve decided to follow the Keep It Simple Stupid principle by removing the ending punctuation from the name—unless my client adamantly disagrees with me.
For related tips, see
- The Importance of Company Style Guides
- The In or Outs of Ending Punctuation with Quotation Marks
- Do You Breathe When You Punctuate?
As Writing Jim, Jim Driggers provides copywriting and business process writing to owners of small and medium-sized businesses. His clients gain sales through marketing text that better resonates with their customers, and they save money when their employees follow guides rather than impulses. His clients give themselves the time to focus on what they do well when they leave their writing to Writing Jim.
For copywriting help with your print or online content or for help systematizing your business processes, contact Writing Jim at [email protected] or 925-231-5825. Visit www.writingjim.com for more information.If you care, share.