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Monday, July 28, 2008


Did my character use a Kleenex? Perhaps it was a Puffs...

When my protagonist reached for a tissue to dry her eyes in a scene in the young adult novel I'm writing, I first wrote the word "Kleenex." I knew I needed to use tissue, but I wanted to be specific. I wanted to write Kleenex. I could visualize her hand reaching for the boutique box, pink in color, and pull a perfect pink Kleenex-brand tissue out of the cardboard square.

But could I write Kleenex? Or did I need to use the generic form of the word?

Truth be told, many generic-sounding words and phrases are trademarked brand names. And if your household is like mine, we substitute the brand name for the generic form quite often. Perfect example: Can you google how to raise brussel sprouts?

Writers can use trademarked words, but make sure you use them correctly. Check and double check spellings and capitalizations prior to penning those words on the page.

It's also a good rule to avoid specific product names if you are using it as a generic term.

A great resource to check out is the International Trademark Association. The organization offers a list of trademarked words and phrases, and I've found additional information on the site that I've to put good use in my non-fiction writing.

So the next time you are faced with a trademark vs. generic word choice, consider checking out the INTA site and decide if the choice strengthens your writing or if a generic serves as a sound substitute.

As for me, I'm going to grab a Cheez Whiz sandwich, go outside and twirl the Hula Hoop around my waist for awhile (it's great exercise) and then hit the Jacuzzi.

Or maybe I what I really need to say is I'm going to grab a processed cheese spread sandwich, go outside and twirl a plastic toy hoop around my waist for awhile and then hit the whirlpool bath (which is really a plastic kiddie pool).

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6:46 PM  
Blogger Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

In my novel, Courage in Patience, the character reached for a "tissue." But she ate at Applebees and her stepmom shopped at Walmart. They drank Kool-Aid. Maybe I wrote "tissue" b/c I usually buy store-brand? ha ha ha

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter 1 is online!

1:29 AM  
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5:58 AM  

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