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When asking a question on another SE site, it was brought to my attention that the airline company easyJet is spelled with a lowercase e and a capital J (I initially wrote EasyJet).

How should such a word be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence:

EasyJet is an airline.

or

easyJet is an airline.

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    The general question is answered below, but note that the official name of the company is "EASYJET AIRLINE COMPANY LIMITED" ... tinyurl.com/y3372wbm The company name is styled easyJet. When you register a company, you have to use all capitals. How you present and trademark your name is up to you. – James K Sep 6 at 18:50
  • To address one potential point of resistance to the idea of keeping it uncapitalized: English has the (usually unspoken) general rule "words that don't begin a sentence are uncapitalized"; but we are used to lots of specific exceptions (proper names, for example) that override that general rule. English has the general rule "words that do begin a sentence are capitalized"; but it makes perfect sense that there can be lots of specific exceptions (such as "easyJet") that override that general rule. – Greg Martin Sep 6 at 20:44
  • @JamesK That is irrelevant. What matters is brand name and brand name recognitions. All caps, indeed.The brand name is not all caps. – Lambie Sep 6 at 21:56
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If you're constrained to follow any specific style guide, it may have a definite position on whether to capitalise proper nouns like easyJet, eBay if they occur as the first "word" in a sentence. Probably not, though.

But this is from Cambridge University Press in Interchange (a series for adult and young-adult learners of English)...

enter image description here

The above is presented as a "promotional piece" for eBay, so arguably CUP are simply reproducing it without necessarily endorsing it. But it's followed by student's question text that repeats that "non-capitalisation" choice...

enter image description here


My guess is most writers would rather sidestep the issue completely - by rephrasing so the problematic term doesn't start a new sentence. It doesn't make any difference how many people agree or disagree with whatever capitalisation choice you make - there is no "perfect" way to deal with "orthographic anomalies" like this.


EDIT: I personally have no preference one way or the other - even with the potentially more challenging choice between eBay, Ebay, and EBay. But since I've cited Cambridge University Press on the "Trade names trump standard grammar" side (backed by CMOS), I'll just say that both the BBC and New York Times use EBay to start a sentence, as noted in comments.

In short, it's six of one and half-a-dozen of the other (but you should at least be consistent).

Blockquote

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  • Sorry, I do not exactly understand your sentence "If you're constrained to follow any specific style guide, that may have a definite position on whether to capitalise proper nouns like easyJet, eBay if they occur as the first "word" in a sentence.". "(...) that (...)" refers to the style guide? (I am not a native speaker, I would have used "it" instead of "that" in that case). In other words, do you mean that only a specific style guide will (or rather - may) have a position on this topic, but there is no general rule? – WoJ Sep 6 at 14:31
  • sorry about that that :) I'll edit to make it easier to parse. I'm sure there won't be anything remotely close to a "general rule" for this. Things are even worse with eBay than they are with easyJet - if you check out (case-sensitive) hits on Google NGrams, you'll find EBay is [blah blah] occurs as well as Ebay is... and eBay is... But I find it hard to imagine any style guide would explicitly concern themselves with what to do about the second letter in eBay if for whatever reason they decided to capitalise the first letter. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 14:39
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    No style guide would change a brand name... – Lambie Sep 6 at 15:02
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    @Lambie yet style guides do, including that of the BBC: bbc.co.uk/academy/en/articles/art20130716140724183 – phoog Sep 6 at 22:28
  • @phoog The company uses both EasyJet and easyJet. So the BBC didn't change anything at all. They just chose not to use the brand name. – Lambie Sep 6 at 22:31
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Brand names cannot be changed when cited or referred to in writing. However the brand name is written or spelled, it must stay that way even if it means starting a sentence with a lower-case letter.

So, easyJet is the brand name and EasyJet, both used by the company and eBay. So, either one, I'd say.

easyJet

For example:

easyJet is an interesting company. eBay is a corporate behemoth.

But editors will often reword a sentence to avoid this, as explained below.

Quote from ragan's PR Daily:

"eBay has a fabulous collection of vintage tube tops. iTunes must now compete with Amazon’s Prime Music.

The Chicago Manual of Style has this to say: “Brand names or names of companies that are spelled with a lowercase initial letter followed by a capital letter (eBay, iPod, iPhone, etc.) need not be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence or heading, though some editors may prefer to reword.” That wasn’t always its rule, though:

This departure from Chicago’s former usage recognizes not only the preferred usage of the owners of most such names but also the fact that such spellings are already capitalized (if only on the second letter). Company or product names with additional, internal capitals (sometimes called “midcaps”) should likewise be left unchanged (GlaxoSmithKline, HarperCollins, LexisNexis):".

Summary: Brand names are legal names and cannot be changed in writing.

https://www.prdaily.com/is-there-a-definitive-answer-to-this-capitalization-conundrum/

Brand names

The Economist The Bestselling Guide to English Usage

company names Call companies by the names they call themselves. Here is a selection of names that are sometimes spelt incorrectly.

abn amro ACNeilsen Allied Domecq aol AstraZeneca AT&T (American Telephone) [see the full list in the PDF]

Refer to the full guide here: The Economist Style Guide

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    The first and last sentences of your answer say brand names cannot be changed, but the "authority" you cite for this from CMOS says they need not be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. There's a world of difference between can't and needn't. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 16:16
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    I'm not disagreeing with the basic idea here - I just think you're overstating it. CMOS specifically "hedges" with may not and preferred usage, but you're taking things significantly further. Particularly with the suggestion that because they're legal names, there are actually legal implications here. Which I lump in with the ludicrous idea that the company that owns the trademarked Hoover brand name have some kind of legal right to pronounce on whether I'm even allowed to use that word as a verb, let alone whether I "must" capitalise it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 16:35
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    I just did a site-specific search of www.bbc.co.uk/news for ebay. Two of the first three results are "incorrectly" capitalised, as EBay said it did not tolerate such behaviour and EBay is to drop PayPal as its main payments processor. You can rail against such usages all you like, but you'll never get 100% compliance with any such "rules". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 16:50
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    It's not easy to do a case-sensitive search on bbc.com, and I've no idea how to track down their "house style guide" (which I'm sure will exist). But I've just repeated my site-specific search with easyjet has, and every one of the first few pages of results where I can easily see that it starts a sentence has the first letter capitalised. This strongly suggests to me that the BBC has in fact come down on the opposite side of the fence to CMOS (and you! :) I have no preference or opinion; I'm simply reporting what usages occur. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 6 at 17:16
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    What about words that aren't brand names? For example, Unix commands are case-sensitive so it's technically (if not linguistically) correct to write the sentence "rm is the Unix command to remove a file." – Simon Brady Sep 7 at 3:17

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