CamelCase, Initialcaps, or ALLCAPS: How text replacement tools can help you get brand names right

Typing on laptop closeup, chatting in Facebook

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Writing is a necessary part of many people’s jobs. Whether it’s internal memos, emails, proposals, or articles, a whole lot of us have to tickle those keys on a daily basis to produce work-related prose.

One natural side-effect of writing for work is that you often have to use brand names. Unfortunately, brand names are not always capitalized in a way that’s either intuitively obvious, or even in keeping with how Mrs. Demarest taught (some of) us to capitalize names in 7th grade English class.

Some brands, like Apple, are actually capitalized the way you’d expect. There’s an initial capital letter, followed by lower-case letters. Other brands, like eBay and iPhone, use camel cases. Camel case is the term used for when you capitalize a word in the middle. Like a camel, it has a hump in the middle.

Some brands have two humps, one at the beginning and one in the middle. YouTube uses two humps, while MyMiniFactory (a library of 3D printable objects) uses three.

Other brands mix upper and lower case in ways that might not be natural. VMware and the old format for ZDNet come to mind.

And then there are the brands that use all caps. My company, ZATZ, is always spelled with all caps, as are BMW, VISA, and IKEA.

If you’re in marketing or you’re a tech journalist, you’re probably faced with typing brand names a hundred times a day. Usually, muscle memory works. After typing iPhone ten or twenty thousand times, I’m pretty much on autopilot with the camel case.

But what if you just can’t get your fingers to type the right case? What if you know Microsoft is Microsoft, but your fingers always want to type MicroSoft? Or you somehow keep typing FaceBook when it’s Facebook. Or, for the life of you, you can never remember that Photoshop is Photoshop and not PhotoShop?

editor

A kind reminder to get our style right.

With ZDNET’s big redesign last month came a new styling dictate: ZDNET was no longer ZDNet. It was to always be typed as ZDNET. As you might imagine, with more than a decade of ZDNet muscle memory, I needed help. To the annoyance of my very patient and tolerant editor, I get turning in articles using the old style of capitalization.

As it turns out, there’s an app for that.

Once it was pointed out to me that I caught typing our new branding wrong, I turned to a tool I’ve relied on for quite a while: TextExpander.

TextExpander is a tool that watches for key sequences. When it finds a sequence it’s been programmed to watch for, it replaces the original with a new sequence. It triggers once it sees a delimiter. So, for example, if I type ZDN et [space]it deletes all six characters and replaces them with ZDNET [space]. It also makes a really unique sound that lets me know that it’s made a change, which reassures me that I now have it right.

You might think you can use the spelling correction dictionaries in apps like Microsoft Word. But the issue is that you’ll then have to change the definitions in each application you’re using. By using a system-wide text replacement app like TextExpander, those changes will be made whether you’re typing in Word, Chrome, Evernote, Notion, PowerPoint, or even in a video editing application like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. It also stores the definitions in the cloud, so it works across all your devices as well.

Using TextExpander

I use TextExpander a lot to fix words I regularly misspell. For example, I write relatively regularly about Dell, but I always somehow seem to type Dejj and Dekk. When TextExpander sees those incorrect versions, it quickly substitutes in Dell. Since Dell is a regular topic of coverage, it’s pretty important to spell the company name correctly.

Setting up a replacement is easy. Just select New Snippet from the TextExpander menu.

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Here’s how you set up an expansion.

You’ll be presented with a snippet window. I like to start at (1) with Abbreviation. That’s what I normally type and want to fix. Then (2), I enter the replacement text. You can choose your replacement to be rich text or plain text (3). Give the abbreviation a label (4). And then, finally, decide if your abbreviation is case sensitive or not (5). Because this replacement is all about case, you’ll want to set it to Case Sensitive.

One thing to note. As a default, TextExpander expands after a space, return, or tab character is typed.

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Since it’s likely that you’ll use a comma or a period after your search word, you’ll want to enable those as well. Go into Preferences, then Expansion and Show All Delimiters. I recommend turning on period, comma, exclamation point, and question mark as well.

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That’s all you need to do. I find that I either add abbreviations that I expect to use frequently (as I expect the ZDNET correction to be used), or for individual projects. Sometimes, when it’s hard to remember a specific name, or when I need to cite a long set of last names in an academic paper, I set up an abbreviation so I can cite and type without error.

More about TextExpander

For individuals, TextExpander is $39.96 per year. You can use it on Mac, Windows, and iOS. There’s also a Chrome extension version for those of you using Chromebooks.

While I’m always slightly annoyed by the subscription model for software (TextExpander used to be a one-time purchase), the company allows unlimited devices and keeps your abbreviations in the cloud, so no matter what device you’re on, it knows to make corrections.

Text replacement tools are not new. Other applications that do similar things include Buzz Bruggeman’s ActiveWords (an app Buzz has been constantly updating since 1999), AutoHotKey, Keyboard Maestro, Typist, PhraseExpressand about 50 more.

Each has its own unique features. I’m recommending TextExpander because I’ve used it for years, but some of those other apps will solve the same kind of problem.

The bottom line is this. Whether it’s a teacher, an editor, a client, or a boss, someone who reviews your work is going to expect you to properly format brand names, especially if that brand happens to be theirs.

While muscle memory can get in the way of typing those characters correctly, setting up correction in an app like TextExpander can help you turn in your work with the professionalism that’s expected of you.

And so, from now on and in all my future articles, say goodbye to ZDNet and hello to ZDNET.

Editor’s note: 🎉


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