e e cummings

Here’s the dilemma of the day:
If a company does not capitalize the first letter of its name, should we?

This brings to mind the poet Edward Estlin Cummings, who sometimes used lower case letters and no punctuation in his byline in the same manner as his poetry:
e e cummings

OK, but that’s an artsy poet; he can get away with it. But what about serious technical writing? What about eni? What about iPad and eBay? How do you start a sentence with those company names? How do you treat them in headlines where all major words begin with a capital letter?

(For a refresher on capitalization rules for headlines and titles, visit:

I’ve recently seen the Italian oil company, Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, written as eni, Eni, and ENI. I’ve heard it pronounced as “E-N-I” and “Ennie.” Which is correct? According to Wikipedia, the name is no longer used as an acronym, so “Ennie” would be the preferred pronunciation.

Rule of Thumb:
If the letters are pronounced individually, such as API, then you should use all capital letters.

The Wikipedia Manual of Style says to capitalize trademarks as proper names, and that would include trademarks that begin with a lower case letter. Thus, craigslist would be capitalized as Craigslist. And even though TIME magazine is all caps on the cover, we should write it as Time (italicized, of course.)

The AP Stylebook says it succinctly: “When a trademark is used, capitalize it.”

Whereas the Italian oil company name is no longer pronounced as separate letters,

and whereas trademark names should be capitalized,

therefore be it resolved to use Eni from now on.

And that is exactly what JPT, the Journal of Petroleum Technology published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, does, and I always go by the SPE Style Guide as my primary source of oil patch writing wisdom.

But what about eBay and iPad?
Well, those go just as written, according to Wikipedia.

iPads are available on eBay.
eBay is where he bought his iPad.

However, if you can, try not to start a sentence with such trademark names.

He bought his iPad on eBay.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”
– e e cummings, American poet, 1894-1962


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