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Wal-Mart, or Walmart?

Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012, at 12:18 PM

I was reading Steve Mills' blog post and noticed that he (like many others) referred to the big retail chain as Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart was known as such for decades. Their next-to-last logo featured a five-pointed star in place of the hyphen, but the business was still referred to as Wal-Mart in print.

Then, they switched to their present logo, the one with what looks like an asterisk. The name, in that logo, is clearly written as "Walmart," not "Wal-Mart." There was some confusion at first. The Associated Press Stylebook, which is what we in the newspaper business generally use to determine how we'll settle such matters in print, eventually decreed that the retail stores should now be referred to as "Walmart" in news stories.

But there's fine print.

You see, the parent company is still incorporated as "Wal-Mart Stores Inc.", and so if you do a story about the parent company, that's the form you use. The following sentence may look strange, but it would be completely in line with AP style:

"Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has decided that some of its Walmart locations will open on Thanksgiving evening."

One thing that the AP guideline doesn't give us help with is how to refer to our local warehouse. Is it the "Walmart Distribution Center," because it provides food to Walmart stores, or the "Wal-Mart Distribution Center," a division of the parent company? We've probably had it in the paper both ways.

Sometimes, organizations aren't sure themselves. Our understanding is that the name of Southside Elementary School is one word, while East Side Elementary is two words. But in the past, before the most recent redesign, I've seen both "East Side" and "Eastside" on the very same page of the school's web site.

I took some out-of-town guests to Lynchburg last month, and I didn't get the chance to give them the rule for punctuating the town's most famous name:

  • The original proprietor of the town's most famous business was Jack Daniel.
  • The product is known as Jack Daniel's Whiskey, possessive, with an apostrophe followed by an s.
  • The facility where it is made is the Jack Daniel Distillery, with no apostrophe and no s.

I'm not sure anyone else obsesses over stuff like this, but when writing is your life it's the type of thing you have to think about.

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I have noticed John. In fact, I checked for the blog comment I made by going to their website and saw the same contradicting terminology you mentioned on their official page.

Thanks for clearing that up. A company that I do some work with recently changed their logo, but it is not changed for corporate and a few other side companies. Yeesh!

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Nov 22, 2012, at 6:40 AM

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John I. Carney
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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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