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A Thousand Ways to Spell PunchOut. Thinking about PunchOut for Days!

Alexandra Newman joined our team several months ago. Her responsibilities are vast, including project management, routine office organization and copywriting. She graduated from Radford University with a BS in English. During her training at PunchOut2Go she did a lot of research about the procurement industry which lead to this fun exposé on her experience.

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A Thousand Ways to Spell PunchOut. Thinking about PunchOut for Days!

Jul 20, 2013

Alex_Po2Go.jpgThe other day I was shopping for office supplies when a middle aged couple stopped me. Apparently I looked like I knew a thing or two about office and school supplies. Their shopping list was assigned to them straight from their sixth grader’s teacher and it was apparently asking for some crazy, unheard of things, like a USB flash drive. Who would have thought?!

Since we live in a digital world, I was stunned that these parents had no idea what a flash drive was. I walked with them to an aisle over to check out the drives and found the usual overpriced ones that no sixth grader would ever need and then, back in the corner, there was this adorable zebra-striped flash drive that was all of ten dollars and 16 gigs; perfect for any eleven year old girl.

So what did this little flash drive and PunchOut2Go have in common, you ask? Bear with me. The flash drive was simple and reliable, affordable, and created just for girls like this couple’s daughter. PunchOut2Go’s catalogs are the same. We make things simple, we are reliable and our solutions are powerful and customized just for our clients. This is a pretty far off comparison, I know, but it made sense at the time.

With this in mind, I was curious what other industry service providers were doing.  Could they compare themselves to the likes of a good ol’ flash drive? Were they able to offer the variety of robust solutions that we can? Do they offer people the option to simply do it themselves, on their own ecommerce platform, like our extensions do?

Throughout my research I realized that all the punch-out catalogs were basically the same, except for PunchOut2Go’s unique testing portal, gateway, lower prices, real- time assistance, and practice of making every experience a personal one. What was different, however, was each company’s interpretation of the spelling. I found PunchOut, punch-out, punchout, and even PUNCHOUT. A lot of the sites I looked at had it spelled every different way, including our own website.

This may seem like a very silly thing for me to have been concerned about, but being a somewhat recent graduate who studied English, I was baffled. I wanted to know the right way to spell punch-out. I brought this up with the boss man and he didn’t have an answer for me. Instead, with a big grin, he said, “Why don’t you further your knowledge and find out.” Looking back, I have a feeling he knew what I was about to get myself into.

So with a new mission on hand, I dusted off some of my college handbooks and started emailing anyone who would give me a moment of their time. Unfortunately for me, no one had asked this question anywhere online yet. I was going to have to figure it out on my own.

At what I thought was the end of my investigation, I concluded that because it is a compound and common noun that is somewhat ambiguous, I would hyphenate it. Hyphens are joiners, their only purpose being to show that the word is a single entity. But when used as a possessive or proper noun we, PunchOut2Go, can call it our PunchOut catalog. Why? Because it's ours and our CEO and COO, Brady Behrman and Shawn McKnight, like it that way. They said it looks “sexy.” Hey, their company, their branding; and it works. Shawn’s brilliant logic kicked in when he added that it’s part of our trademark and on our business license, so we kind of don’t have a choice anymore.

Even my former college professor Rick Van Noy (visit his website here), a professional writing guru himself, agreed with me, which made me feel like a million bucks. He said that since we are attempting to brand our catalog, “PunchOut becomes like Band-Aid…or Google… Google can be capped or not [capitalized] when used as a transitive verb.” We provide PunchOut catalogs, but Bobby Jo down the street wants a punch-out catalog.  The former of the two is not debatable. Makes sense, right?

punchout-how-do-you-refer.jpgI thought it was that simple too and I was wrong. That evening I joined some of our team members for dinner and we had a little debate. Seth Kinne, PunchOut2Go’s Business Developer, decided it should be lowercase without a hyphen because, “it’s going to be so popular that typing it is just easier that way,” which is a very valid point.  Addison, one of our developers said, “I just think it should be simple and easy. Not just for us but for our customers.”  We called Jim Cantrell, Liaison’s Director of Channel Programs, for his input. He said he usually spells it like Seth simply because, "there's no reason to capitalize it every time, that just makes sense." Touché Jim, it does make sense. But it’s the hyphen that I’m most curious about.

Then there was Christy’s opinion, which I had to ask her to write down because in all honesty, it went straight over my head the first time around. Although Christy is one of our newest developers here at PunchOut2Go, she also studied English as her second major in college. She said,

“At this point, I'm convinced it should be hyphenated, and here's why: the two strongest arguments against hyphenation are first, that it's a compound word, and second, that it is similar to other words like "email". The problem with this thought is that Germanic compounds are formed using a descriptor plus a noun. Is `punch’ a type of `out’? No, it's not. If anything it's more related to word-phrases such as `clock-in’ and `clock-out’, which are hyphenated or separated all together. But what about words like `email’ and `ecommerce’? Well frankly, punch-out is nothing like those words. They derive from "electronic", and "mail" or "commerce", respectively. But we don't say "electronic-mail" anymore- we say "email", which makes these words more like portmanteaus (the combination of two or more morphemes; in a practical sense these come from different words or sources) than compounds, and punch-out is arguably not a portmanteau.”

Isn’t she a genius? I agreed with her 110% and was so excited to finally have a solid answer that pinpointed why. At this point I was convinced I was right, and the majority of everyone else on the internet was wrong. How naïve of me.

This unresolved spelling issue was eating me up and I felt like I was missing some big picture. I went back to Strunk and White’s trusty advice in The Elements of Style and found one very, very important statement I had missed before. It read, “Common sense will aid you in the decision, but a dictionary is more reliable.” (Trust me, I checked; it’s there, just not the same thing). It continued, “The steady evolution of the language seems to favor union: two words eventually become one, usually after a period of hyphenation (35).”  So there you have it folks. It boils down to the author’s judgment call and more than likely individuals will stick with “punchout”.

The art of the hyphen is dying, and I find that disappointing even if I understand that language evolves alongside technology. My attempt at standardizing the spelling of a punch-out catalog was not viable and I’m sure that there are procurement specialists out there who will read this and laugh at my futile attempt. Props to Seth, Jim, and Addison though! They based their decision on what was easier for them, and apparently the rest of the world as well. However, Christy and I weren’t wrong; we’ve just been schooled a little differently.

So what did I learn through this “knowledge-seeking” assignment? (Besides that it’s better not to correct professionals who have spent their whole careers developing a concept, especially when your career does not extend a full two years.) Only that punch-out, or punchout, catalogs are a brilliant tool for any company, but a PunchOut catalog is the way to go.  See what I did there?

How do you refer to PunchOut, punch-out, punchout, PUNCHOUT? 
Share your thoughts below, We'd love to hear from you!

 



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