Playing with style: LEGO or Lego?

lego

A recent letter to the editor took The News & Observer to task for the way it refers to this toy. The writer asserts that the proper way to refer to those colorful building blocks is LEGO. She also says that the plural form of LEGO is LEGO.

Not so fast, says my colleague Bill Cloud. He points to an entry in the AP Stylebook. Under “company names,” the stylebook advises: “Do not use all-capital-letter names unless the letters are individually pronounced.” So BMW, but not IKEA. Cloud argues that the style rule on company names should also apply to product names.

Some newspapers have their own style, of course, but The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are with AP on this one. Indeed, that’s how the LAT topics page on the toy does it.

Here’s what Henry Fuhrmann, assistant managing editor in charge of copy desks, standards and the library at the LAT, said in an e-mail about this question:

We do not have a formal style on the word itself. But our general style rule on acronyms would call for Lego. We capitalize the first letter of trademarks but otherwise follow our style rules in determining the capitalization of other letters. Similarly, in our style, NASA and ACLU are all caps, but the California Public Employees Retirement System is CalPERS.

Fuhrmann also said that a former colleague at the LAT would correct those who stuck an “s” on the word: “He is a traditionalist and a stickler and would always gently advise users that ‘Legos’ is incorrect.”

What do you think? Check out this discussion among Lego/LEGO fans for more.

(Creative Commons image by Craig Rodway)

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5 thoughts on “Playing with style: LEGO or Lego?

  1. I think the prominence of Internet communications has made this question more complicated, as most of us know that in emails/chats/etc. capital letters denote screaming or yelling. I’ve even had people tell me that they do not like the AP-correct “OK” because it can be read as yelling. (I can think of some worse things to yell.)

    I have to agree with Prof. Cloud here–Lego is no different than Ikea. But I also understand the desire of any company or organization to be branded as it intended. I think of EmPOWERment, Inc. in Chapel Hill, which always provided somewhat of a style headache at the DTH. That and any names that have exclamation marks after them… thank you Jeopardy!.

  2. Bill Walsh wrote a great post about this awhile back: http://www.theslot.com/webnames.html. I agree with him – you have to draw the line somewhere for the sake of the reader.

    By the way, who determined what the plural should be -and that it shouldn’t follow the standard rule of adding an ‘s’? I suppose it’s their way of trying to make sure people see only LEGO, not Lego or Legos.

  3. Interesting question. Cathy, thanks for the link to Bill’s post. I agree with him: You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Decide on a style and stick with it. That’s why we make editorial calls and all have editorial judgment.

  4. I worked for a small publisher whose catalog included a number of Lego-related titles & we had to abide by Lego rules. Lego would never be plural because it’s the name of the company, not its products. The pieces of plastic they manufacture are Lego bricks, not “legos.” I’m not saying it’s correct — and, of course, no real person actually speaks that way — but it’s another little factoid for your discussion.

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