Saturday, December 05, 2009


You may well do some of your holiday shopping at or But I guarantee you that you'll do none at or Because they don't exist.

Here's the deal: There are names, and there are addresses. It's easy enough not to confuse "Macy's" with "151 W. 34th St.," but things get tricky when you see the same online store referred to as Amazon and and amazon and and and

Go to and you'll see "blue nile" and "Blue Nile" and "Blue Nile Inc.," but you will not see "" or "" or "" or "BlueNile" or "bluenile." You'll see "" only in your browser's address field. Therefore, if you're writing about that store, you must call it "Blue Nile." Call it "Blue Nile (" if you want to help your readers get there.

Go to, on the other hand, and you'll see "" and "" and " Inc." is both the name and the address. Even if the site consistently said "," by the way, I would call it Proper nouns are capitalized. Grant eBay (not a one-letter grace period if you like, as long as it's not at the beginning of a sentence.

If you want to point to a URL within, then you're talking address, and so you'll want to revert to lowercase. Perhaps there's a big sale at I like to keep the "www.," if applicable, in such cases, for two reasons: It helps sharpen the distinction between name and address, and it presents more opportunities for a line break if the sentence ends up in a narrow column. Some people like to keep the "http://," especially when there's no "www.," but that strikes me as silly. There will, however, occasionally be times when you'll want "https://" for a secure site.

On a tour of deal-hunting sites, note the difference between not-coms such as Stop It to Me, RetailMeNot and Coupon Sherpa and dot-coms (or -orgs) such as and

Some online stores don't know what their names are, leaving you with a judgment call. Go to and you'll see "zingsale" and "ZingSale" and ""  It's usually ZingSale, and so I would call it "ZingSale" or "ZingSale (" Because the name's-the-same dynamic is much tidier, however, it would be an acceptable style decision to take that lone "" as permission to call the site That's the decision I'd make at, where the indecision is about 50-50.


Philip Gray-Long said...

Surely even can be just "Amazon" in almost every context. No one is going to think "She bought her shoes on Amazon" refers to a river. The ".com" doesn't seem to add much, like "Inc."

Bill said...

Sure, but in newspaper style, at least, it should be on first reference.

kate said...

You might already have a post that addresses whether to retain the "www," but I would love to know others' thoughts on this. We retain the www at all times (unless the site does not work when it is included). According to my husband, a network engineer, you cannot just drop the www for style reasons; the www and non-www versions are in fact different URLs. Most sites have a redirect from one to the other, but some do not. Based on my own research, whether or not the www is included can also affect the site's search engine rankings.

Unknown said...

That's "Shop It to Me," not "Stop It." OK, I'll stop it now!

Josephine said...

I've noticed that some publications are dropping the "www" in URLs. So it would be, not
I like that.
And, off topic, if I may, I am looking for an online copy-editing certification program. I've found two: one with the University of California and one at
That was the perfect example: does leaving out the "www" in front of "" confuse a reader?
If you have thoughts on copy-editing certification, I would appreciate hearing them.
New to this (but I've read your books and I loved them).
Jo-Anne (Yukon Territory)

Talley Sue said...

We've dealt w/ our publications extreme space limitations in *shopping credits* by omitting the URL for companies whose names are the same letters as their URL.

But that leaves us with continuing space problems, and some *apparent* consistency problems with companies like Blue Nile.

I am wondering whether I can make an argument that there are 3 categories:

the company name
the address
the site name (which is based on the URL)

I follow the basic logic you outline when it's running copy, or narrative.

When it's highly truncated, incredibly squeezes credit copy, it's harder to be a purist. The advantage to the reader or to the company seems pretty small.

Unknown said...

Kate has summed it up nicely.

Chris Combs said...

Just don't change any case after the .com/, or you'll be printing broken links.

DA said...

Oh, Bill. Not you! I count on you to get things right (and to get things, right?) when no one else does. So, with respect to this:

Go to, on the other hand, and you'll see "" and "" and " Inc."

readers who try to go there using your link will not go there. And if they do indeed go to, they won't see " Inc."; they'll see "", Inc."