If I have more than one Curly Wurly, do I have Curly Wurlys or Curly Wurlies?
To answer the question, we have to look at both trademarks and irregular word forms. Last week, I began outlining the ACID test, which the International Trademark Association (INTA) advises for protecting trademark status. Let’s find out what that D means.
This one might drive copyeditors and designers nuts, but the INTA advises rendering the trademark differently from the rest of the text, such as putting it in a different font or in a different point size and color.
Additionally, the generic noun should be next to the trademark at least once: LEGO bricks, Galaxy smartphone. Again, this should be done in the first or most prominent usage per document or on each webpage, such as in the banner that appears at the top of each webpage.
I want to emphasize this next point because it’s one so many writers and editors seem to miss:
These rules and guidelines are for the trademark owner.
Your authors don’t need to write LEGO® even once, unless they’re writing for LEGO. The symbols are for the owner’s use, not everyone else’s. Your authors could write LEGO, however. It’s polite to spell someone’s name correctly, even if that someone is a company or brand.
You also don’t have to stick to the adjective rule. You might allow: How many Curly Wurlys did you eat? It’s up to the trademark owner to defend itself, mostly through education and sometimes through litigation.
That said, it’s good practice to use trademarked names correctly. It’s considerate and it can keep you out of legal trouble.
You definitely want to use them correctly if:
- The trademark is your client’s or employer’s mark
- The trademark is your client’s or employer’s client’s mark or someone they want to stay on good terms with
- The trademark owner is a vigorous defender of its mark and your client or employer would be in danger of litigation
Why would I want to use the trademark as a noun? It could be for rhythm in the sentence. It could be for parallelism in a list (that was Hutton-Squire’s dilemma). It could be because it’s fictional dialogue and saying Curly Wurlys is more believable than saying Curly Wurly candy bars.
It’s for the reader.
Following trademark best practices is for the author and publisher—and, ultimately, the trademark owner. Deviating from it is about the reader. Balancing the two is what copyediting is all about.
Let me leave you with two important notes:
Even when following a trademark’s proper spelling and part of speech, you do not have to use the marks. Those are solely for the owner. (Have I said this enough yet?)
Make it plain upfront that as the copyeditor, you are not responsible for any legal issues resulting from publication. You are not a lawyer, nor are you qualified to give a legal opinion. And you are not the last person to touch the copy. Others may introduce errors later. If the client or employer is squeamish, advise them to check with a lawyer. If they insist on using the marks, go with it. It’s not your battle and not your legal responsibility.
But what if you do make that adjective into a noun? Why is it Curly Wurlys, not Curly Wurlies (or Curlies Wurly, as one poster jokingly suggested)?
For that, we’ll look at why we regularize irregulars next week. Stay tuned!