Something I was meaning to talk about last week but got lost in the shuffle was a post on Kotaku revealing that the official, Sony-approved style for writing about their new system is “PLAYSTATION®3.” That’s right… all caps, no space, one registered trademark symbol…
I’ve touched on this problem in previous posts about Nintendo’s preferred styling for the Wii, but I never really got into my thoughts on the answer. The real question here is: Do we owe it to the companies we cover to refer to their systems and games in exactly the way they prescribe, no matter how stupid they are? After a lot of thought about the issue, I think my answer is: hell no!
The purpose of any style rule for a publication is to aid the reader in easy scanning and comprehension of what you write. That’s it. How the company wants to position its product in your readers mind doesn’t matter. Whether a company wants to protect its copyright doesn’t matter. Being consistent with what you see on the press release doesn’t matter. Having the reader understand what you are talking about, and presenting it in a self-consistent and clear manner, is all that matters.
With that in mind, I think writing out PLAYSTATION®3 is clearly not in the reader’s best interest. Putting one term in all caps in the middle of a sentence is quite JARRING and makes it seem like you’re SCREAMING. Which is probably what Sony intends (”Wow, the mentions of the PLAYSTATION®3 seem to just jump off the page here). But in an industry where readers will jump on any perceived sign of bias, do you really want to give readers an excuse to think you’re giving Sony’s system preferential treatment? Or would you rather put every system name in all capital letters? (I suppose the 32X is OK already…)
This reader-first guideline applies to all sorts of style questions. Is writing out “Driv3r” going to cause many readers to scratch their heads? Could putting two exclamation points after Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! going to make readers think the sentence has ended prematurely (or perhaps make them think you’re really enthusiastic!! about the game)? I would sya yes to both, but it’s really up to the editor to consider their audience and their best interests.
I’m not saying you should completely disregard a company’s desires when making style choices. I’m saying you should make a judgement call based on what will be clearest to the readers instead of automatically deferring to the company.