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Do You Capitalize 'Google'?

Google would rather you didn't use "Google" as a verb, but they may be losing the battle.

By
Mignon Fogarty
Episode #700
a keyboard with a google button. Google is capitalized

 

Jeannie A. from Chicago, Illinois, wrote, "If you're using the proper noun 'Google' as a verb, do you capitalize it?"

If Google executives care about their trademark, they would like you to not use "Google" as a verb since doing so threatens that trademark, but as you know, it's very common to hear people say, "I Googled it," to mean they searched for something on Google.

AP style is to capitalize “Google” when you use it as a verb, when you say you Googled something or are Googling something. The Chicago Manual of Style also says to capitalize trademarks such as Google, but notes that although this is what corporations would prefer, it’s not a legally binding rule, and they note that Webster’s includes lowercase entries for both “google” and another company name that has become a verb: “xerox.”

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists the verb "google" as lowercase, but notes that it is often capitalized. The Oxford English Dictionary entry shows the verb "Google" capitalized, but says it can also be lowercase. Garner’s Modern English Usage says it can go either way but that it’s more common to keep “Google” capitalized than to write it lowercase.

It’s common to use certain company or product names as verbs, and when you do, it’s usually better to capitalize them.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to capitalize it unless you're following AP or Chicago style, but it’s probably a good idea to do it anyway. No matter what you decide, pick one way of doing it and being consistent instead of flipping back and forth between two styles. Be deliberate.

Finally, remember how I said at the beginning that Google executives wouldn’t want you to use “Google” as a verb if they care about their trademark? Well, maybe they don’t care, because a couple of years ago, Nancy Friedman, a corporate naming expert who goes by @fritinancy on Twitter, found an ad for Chromebook computers that deliberately used the product name, Chromebook, as a verb. It read, “If you’re over the old way of doing things, you Chromebook.” And in case you’re curious, they did capitalize “Chromebook.”

That’s your Quick and Dirty Tip: It’s common to use certain company or product names as verbs, and when you do, it’s usually better to capitalize them.

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times bestseller, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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Capitalizing Proper Nouns
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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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