August 30, 2012

Weekly Language Usage Tips: trademark & apostrophe after s

Posted in apostrophe after s, trademark at 6:57 am by dlseltzer

Tip 1: Trademark

A reader writes:

I have two style questions concerning the trademark symbol:

1.      Why does the period go after the ™. (?)

2.      Is it universally acceptable to use the ™ the first time a trademarked name is mentioned and drop it thereafter?

This is far from my area of expertise, but let’s be honest, since when has that stopped me? So why does the period follow the trademark symbol? Well, it seems to me that it makes sense to keep it after the ™ because the punctuation mark is not part of the trademark, and the ™ is saying that the word(s) that precedes the symbol is the trademark, and that doesn’t include the period. That being said, I looked it up to be sure, but while the style guides are silent on the reason, they are unanimous in stating that the period follows  the symbol.

By the way, the trademark symbol is built into your computer’s type. On a Windows computer, hold down the ALT key, and type 0153 on your numeric keypad, and release ALT. On the Mac, it is even easier; just press your OPTION key, and type 2.

As to the second question, while it is fine to use the trademark symbol the first time a trademarked name is mentioned and forget its use thereafter, many style guides and manuals (including the Chicago Manual of Style) recommend not using the symbol at all. The AMA Manual of Style goes even further, forbidding its use in AMA publications.

So unless you are in advertising or marketing or it is really necessary for clarity, I would eschew its use.

Tip 2: Apostrophes after s redux

A reader writes:

I really enjoyed the WLUT as always. One follow-up question about using the possessive apostrophe for words ending in “s.” E.g., Chris’ donut vs. Chris’s donut. Are both accepted?

The easy answer is yes. Any other answer is more complicated, so let’s go.

The current preferred usage is to make anything that is singular possessive by adding apostrophe (‘) s regardless of whether the word ends with s and to make plurals that end with s possessive by adding just the apostrophe.

Chris’s notebook

Dogs’  bones

The former is a relatively new trend. Back in the Middle Ages, when I was learning grammar, we were taught that you don’t use the ending s if the singular word you are making possessive already ends with s.

Chris’ notebook

Around the turn of the century (that’s the 21st century, wiseguy), we moved to the current preferred usage.

However (of course there is a however), there are exceptions. According to Chicago, if the singular and the plural words are the same and end in s (e.g., economics, species), then you just add an apostrophe.

According to the AP Stylebook, you also use only the apostrophe if the word you are making possessive ends in s and is followed by a word starting with s:

Gus’ sailboat

Or if the word is a name of a person ending in s.

Back to Chris’ notebook again

They also use only the apostrophe in some biblical or classical names (e.g., Moses, Euripides).

The exceptions are enough to give me a headache, and they would be a bear to remember. This is my recommendation. Forget all that, and go by the way the words are pronounced. In the AP example, above, we would not pronounce it Gus sailboat—we would pronounce it Gus’s sailboat, so why not write it like that? In the original example, we would not pronounce it Chris notebook, we would pronounce it Chris’s notebook, so it makes sense to write it that way.

And by the way, if you are wondering why I changed the reader’s query about Chris’s donut to Chris’s notebook, it is because the correct spelling is doughnut, and ‘donuts’ should only be used in product and store names and in advertising. That’s why.

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