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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Computer Terminology & InterCaps


As you may have noticed, the computer world has been making up its own rules of capitalization for awhile now. The current trend is to write the names of computer products and programs in InterCaps, also known as BiCapitalization or CamelCase. According to Wikipedia.org, "CamelCase...is the practice of writing compound words or phrases where the words are joined without spaces, and each word is capitalized within the compound. The name comes from the uppercase 'bumps' in the middle of the compound word, suggestive of the humps of a camel."¹

For the purposes of this week's tip, we'll stick with the term "InterCaps." It would be very difficult to have a serious discussion about grammar using the term "CamelCase" throughout this lesson!

Microsoft products offer several perfect examples of InterCaps: FrontPage, PowerPoint, and OneNote, although you'll notice that Microsoft does not currently use InterCaps in its own name. Adobe uses InterCaps for its InDesign program, but not for Dreamweaver or Photoshop. Intuit uses InterCaps for TurboTax and QuickBooks. And the list goes on -- think PayPal, WordPerfect, MacBook, ThinkPad, TrueType, OpenOffice, and MySpace, just to name a few. Interestingly, the popular Internet browser Firefox does not use InterCaps, although most people mistakenly assume that it does.

Then you have the product names that use several capital letters in a row: QuarkXPress, AutoCAD, and CorelDRAW. To make matters even more confusing, several companies and products intersperse the capital letters: eFax, iPod, TiVo, GoToMyPC, and eBay. Note that eBay’s logo actually reads “ebaY” but the company refers to itself as "eBay" throughout its website copy.

The use of InterCaps has even spread to non-computer terms like BlackBerry, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, PetSmart, and ExxonMobil. Maybe the real trendsetters are companies like AstroTurf, ConAgra, and BellSouth -- they have been using InterCaps in their names long before the mainstream Internet surfaced!

Because the usage of InterCaps varies so much, be sure to follow each company's lead when referring to its products.

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1.Wikipedia, n.d., <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CamelCase>, 
   accessed on July 20, 2006.