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October 28, 2009



Since you do touch on the international sphere, a cell phone in many other places is a mobile phone. Or even a 'handy' (in Germany only, but still) :)

Enjoyable column!


I thought of this post today when @APStylebook posted about this very subject! In a correction of an earlier tweet, @APStylebook stated that smart phone is two words. Here's the link: http://twitter.com/APStylebook/status/5403870193.

It's so interesting to see everyone's take on writing style!


Regarding capitalization of "iPhone," it seems to me that the "i" should remain as a lowercase letter even if the word starts a sentence. It is the proper name of the product, after all.


Thanks for your comment, Erik. But iPhone is definitely uppercase when starting a sentence, as is every word in the English language no matter how an individual or company styles its name. A company can choose to style a brand name however it chooses - and that's what Apple does with iPhone - but the rules of grammar are bigger than any one brand or marketing plan.

Eric C

Question. You write that we should only use hyphens--and I agree-- but what about parenthesis around the first trio of digits, ie (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

I like this look better.

Eric C

I don't think my comment went through earlier, but is it okay to write "(xxx) xxx-xxxx" for phone numbers? This is how I usually do it.

mighty red pen

As an editor, I've always followed the rule that the need to capitalize the first word of the sentence trumps brand names like iPod and eBay. However, an even better way to handle it (in my experience) is often to rewrite the sentence to avoid this conundrum.


Hi, Eric. Sorry for this tardy response! More than anything, I'm a proponent of consistency. So while I prefer hyphens in phone numbers, if you prefer italics around area codes and are consistent about it, it's probably fine. (Though I admit I think using periods is pretentious.)


Dan -- interesting that CP/AP has adopted Blackberrys, since BlackBerry brand guidelines state the plural should always be BlackBerry smartphones (smartphone one word).

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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).