Shorty Awards: Singular or Plural? And Should "Twitter" Be Capitalized?

“Hollywood has the Oscars. Broadway has the Tonys. Now Twittter has… the Shorty Awards.” —The New York Times

Ah, grammar! Even in the midst of our excitement over our Shorty Award nomination, we had to stop and deal with some grammar and usage questions related to social media. But that’s nothing new—English is a complex language, and we don’t always agree on all the rules!

These questions came about when ESL Library was nominated for a Shorty Award last week. These awards honor those who produce content in short form for social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. In short (pun intended), they recognize the best of social media. We are so excited that the nominating board has chosen ESL Library as one of seven finalists in the Education category! The voting is happening now, and it’s really quick and easy to show your support. We love our fans, and we’d appreciate your vote!

I have to give a shout-out to our site’s media director, Tara Benwell, for all her amazing work with social media for ESL Library! Tara, also our head writer, produces amazing content on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram sites. She provides daily resources and tips on ELT and education, and interacts with teachers and other ELT professionals from around the world. While some of the content is a team effort (president Ben Buckwold, designer Robyn Shesterniak, and editor Tanya Trusler), the majority of the credit definitely goes to her. Great job, Tara! :)

Now onto the grammar questions! Let’s tackle these topics:

Should the Shorty Awards take a singular or plural verb?

This is a tough question, similar to the one we dealt with in Olympics: Singular or Plural? Should we look at the Shorty Awards as a singular event (and thus use a singular verb) or a group of awards (and use a plural verb)? I couldn’t find any reference to this in my style guides, so I went straight to the source: the Shorty Awards website. They use a plural verb, like in the following sentence: “The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media.”

This actually sits well with me, because it is similar to the Olympics (singular verb) versus the Olympic Games (plural verb). Since the plural word “awards” is part of the phrase “the Shorty Awards”, it would sound a little strange to say “The Shorty Awards honors….”

However, you can see both singular and plural verbs following various award ceremonies all over the Internet. Google “awards is” and “awards are” and you’ll see what I mean—plenty of examples for both. Basically, you can’t go wrong. Either way is acceptable. The main thing is to choose one way of doing it and try to be consistent.

But remember to consider the sentence each time, too! For example, we have chosen to use a plural verb, so we would say, “The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media.” On the other hand, when Tara asked me if the sentence “The Shorty Awards is Twitter’s version of the Oscars!” was correct, I said “yes”. I think it would sound strange to say “The Shorty Awards are Twitter’s version…” because are and version don’t agree. Another example where I would use a singular verb would be, “The Shorty Awards is a ceremony that takes place annually.”

Conclusion: We are going with a plural verb (unless a singular noun such as ceremony is mentioned as the object). What do you think? Join the debate in the comments section below!

Should we capitalize social media sites like Facebook and Twitter?

What do we do for names and titles that use an initial lowercase letter in their logo, such as “facebook” and “twitter”? If there are no entries in dictionaries or style guides to follow, I usually do two things: first, see how the site itself treats the name, and second, google it to see what the majority of people do. Both Facebook and Twitter, while using a lowercase letter in their logos, use a capital letter everywhere else on their site. So when they’re writing out their names, they spell them as Facebook and Twitter. For example, Facebook lists their copyright as “Facebook © 2014”, and Twitter says this on their site, “Promote your account and get discovered by more people on Twitter.”

Conclusion: Write out “Facebook” and “Twitter” with an initial capital letter.

Voting is on for 5 more days! Check out our video and interview on our profile page, and please take a moment to nominate @ESLlibrary for a Shorty Award in #education—we could use your support! :)

6 comments

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  1. zohrazehour@gmail.com'

    Zohra says:

    Apr 19, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Hi ! Thanks you helped me to understand the lesson conditional

    Reply

  2. Tara Benwell says:

    Feb 13, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    My brain loves it when the answer is, “choose what sounds best”. There are so many helpful hints in this post. I think everyone uses “google” as a verb these days. In the past, I may have capitalized Google when using it as a verb. Do we ever do that when we’re verbizing (is that the word?), or should the verb always be lowercase? For example, last week we were tweeting about “screenshotting” and “wordpressing”.

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      Feb 13, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      Good question!

      Verbizing (creating new verbs) seems to happen a lot these days due to the rapid increase of new websites and tools! The common practice seems to be to NOT capitalize a verb in writing. I would write “I tweeted about education today.” Also, the verbs “tweet” and “google” are already in the dictionary (Merriam-Webster’s, for one) with initial lowercase letters. But note that Twitter uses an initial capital letter for the noun “Tweet” on their site, so it’s safe to write the noun with a capital letter, like in “Compose a new Tweet.”

      So you should write the verbs google, tweet, screenshot, wordpress, etc. with lowercase letters. But don’t forget to write the site names with an initial capital letter (Google, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). :)

      Reply

      • Tara Benwell says:

        Sep 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        Teachers: We have a new “How to Tweet” lesson in our Writing in English section. Your students may know how to tweet in their own language, but they will appreciate learning Twitter lingo and abbreviations in English.
        https://esllibrary.com/courses/74/lessons/2053

        Reply

      • Tanya Trusler says:

        Apr 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm

        I just came back to this post (it’s now 2017) and the common term for turning nouns into verbs is called “verbing,” not “verbizing,” but we were close, Tara!

        Reply

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