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I am currently writing a paper on accessibility and I am talking about some companies in my report. How do I write a company name, product or otherwise when the word is not spelled correctly?

For example:

I went to ToysR’us at the weekend.
I visited the Change4Life website.

Is it acceptable to just write it as normal, or should you put the word in italics or quotation marks?

10

I challenge your contention that these things are spelled incorrectly. When you write 'Toys "R" Us' you are correctly spelling a proper noun. Names are signifiers, and the entity who controls the name controls how it is correctly spelled. I would not have told my high school friend whose last name was "Tomson" that his name was spelled wrong just because for most people it was spelled "Thompson." Likewise, 'Toys "R" Us' has chosen a particular spelling for its title, and that's the correct name.

So now comes the question of how to communicate such titles, and here, I see four basic cases:

  1. Just use it as written, and count on people to understand: not great with Toys"R"Us since quotes are semantically loaded, but fine for a well-understood "misspelling" like Google.
  2. Often, there are commonly used variants that are simpler. If you say Toys R Us, people will know what you are talking about even without the quotes, so its OK. Same with the artist formerly known as Prince. If you say Toys Are Us, however, you've gone a step too far and "corrected" the name into something incorrect.
  3. Put it in quotes, like I did in the first paragraph: 'Toys"R"Us' (here I made the unusual choice of single quotes because of the presence of double quotes in the name).
  4. If you think it is still strange enough that you think people will think you misspelled it, you can add [sic] afterwards, as in "Tomson [sic]"

I don't like italics, as a solution, personally, since I generally see italics used for emphasis or for definition, and neither is the case here.

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For published work, this is for the journal to decide. For your own writing, Wikipedia's guidelines seem sensible. They distinguish the name of the company from the company's preferred orthography.

A company, just like a person, is free to choose the spelling of its name. If I want to call myself Dayvydd (I don't), I can do: you're welcome to tell me that that spelling is unusual but, if I choose it as my name, it is my name and it is correct by definition.

A company is also free to brand itself using unusual typography: for example, unusual letter cases, miscellanous symbols and so on. This is a sort of watered-down logo: you wouldn't include a full-blown logo in running text and there's no particular reason to use one of these almost-logos. So, use ordinary capitalization and replace any weird unpronounced symbols with the normal one ("Macy's", not "macy*s"; "Seven", not "se7en") but don't replace pronounced symbols with words ("Phones4U", not "Phones For You"; "Toys R Us" but not "Toys [backwards-R] Us" or "Toys Are Us").

4

Usually, the journal’s copy editor will have an opinion on this. My personal guideline is to adapt the spelling as much to a regular one as possible without diminuishing the identifiability of the name.

Thus, Toys R Us stays like this (because, at least I would have to think am moment about who Toys Are Us is), and Change4Life becomes Change 4 Life ore stays as it is. However, BIG STUFF INC becomes Big Stuff Inc., and etechnicks becomes Etechnicks or possibly eTechnicks, and Ovəя!†he!†0p!!! becomes Over The Top. In particular, there should be a capital letter at the beginning of the word or at least near it and only there (unless it is a real abbrevation), so it can be easily identified as a proper name, hence this is the function of capitalisation in the English (and almost every other) orthography.

For further reading, I recommended: Editors’ enemies and ‘But FUNKY!!!web!!!DUDES.com is their trademark!’.

As for italics and quotation marks, I would not treat such names different from others. If you follow the above rules, they should be identifiable as proper names through capitalisation, which should be sufficient.¹ If the journal’s style reqires you to italicise company names or equip them with quotation marks, that’s another story.


¹ I only italicised the names in the above, because I was talking about the names, not the companies.

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