Tweeting, Googling, and Capitalization

Google Before You TweetDo you still remember the days when everyone knew that “tweet” referred to the sound that birds make? Those were the days when there was no confusion as to what the speaker meant.

How about the days when your mom may not have known what you meant when you said “Google”? Those days are long gone, and these two words have become so pervasive that even little children know what they mean. More so, kids use them on a regular basis!

There is one thing about the use of the words “Twitter”, “Google”, and their derivatives that may not be so clear, though. Used as proper nouns – the trademarks – there is no doubt about how we write them. We capitalize the first letter of the word. I am willing to bet my month’s earnings on that. ;)

With the way things have evolved, however, new words and uses have arisen. “Google” is also used as a verb. See the example below.

Why don’t you Google the restaurant’s location?

In this case, was I right to capitalize the first letter of the word, or should I have written “google” instead since it is used as a verb? Here is another example.

He tweeted that he was not feeling well.

Should I have capitalized the first letter, or did I get it right this time?

I have read various opinions on this, and the conclusion seems to be that people choose whichever method depending on their personal preference. As usual, I go to my most trusted source: Merriam-Webster.

Interestingly, it gives different answers for the two words. It defines “Google”, used as a verb, as: “to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web”. There is also an additional note saying that the verb is “often capitalized”. The example given is below.1

Then where are they going, if not to Faulkner and Achebe and Naipaul? … To the movies; to television (hours and hours); to Googling obsessively (hours and hours); to blogging and emailing and text messaging…

To be honest, I tend to use lowercase for the verb, but from now on, I hope to be consistent with the example given above.

As for “tweet”, Merriam-Webster takes on a different stance.2 The definition is: “to post a message to the Twitter online message service”. The first letter of the word is not capitalized, nor is there any note about that point.

That solves it for me. How about you? Do agree with these “rules”? Why or why not?

Image via NightRStar

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About

Noemi Twigg has been writing for Splashpress Media for several years. An English teacher by profession, she has a penchant for words and likes to play around with them. Having been bitten by the travel bug, she aims to discover more languages in the near future as she continues to do what she loves most - writing.

Comments

  1. The fact that they say the verb ‘google’ is ‘often’ capitalized, does not, in my opinion, indicate in any way that capitalization is proper. There are may brand names that have come to be used generically, and when used in that form, should not be capitalized. If you are referring specifically to the brand, it should be capitalized, when used generically a term should not be. Kleenex and formica are two other brand names that have become generic in the past. You would not capitalize ‘formica’ unless you were referring to the Formica brand of plastic laminate. ‘Tweet’ is not a brand name at all, Twitter is the brand, so there would never be a reason to capitalize it. That’s my take on the subject.

  2. This makes sense, actually. “Google” wasn’t a verb until the search engine came to being. “Tweet” was a verb before Twitter so you would keep writing it as is.
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  3. It seems to me that there should be a consistent rule, regardless of the particular word. If “tweet” is not capitalized but “Google” is, that’s an inconsistency that needs to be ironed out to establish the rule.

    This isn’t unprecedented, though. There have been other proper nouns that have become verbs, such as “xerox.” To my knowledge, that is generally lower case. If it is the same with other such words, I think usage of “Google” will have to change to accommodate the rule.

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