Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This picture comes to us from MAGGIE, our fabulous Goddess of Gossip. She says: This article contains one of my many pet peeves: the use of "zip code" rather than "ZIP code."

When I saw her e-mail, I cracked the hell up because sometimes I make this very mistake! I have a habit of forgetting that the "ZIP" in ZIP code is actually an acronym for "Zone Improvement Plan." Oops!

I'm glad MAGGIE sent in this one--it's a good reminder for me that a) even wise-ass Grammarphiles aren't always perfect, and b) that the ZIP in "ZIP code" should always be capitalized! :)


HorribleLicensePlates said...

Well, I did not know about this one. You learn something new everyday.


This is one rule I often forget. Half the reason I posted it was so that this post would help me remember to not screw that up anymore. ;)

Laura Payne said...

Just like metaphors that are usually classified as either living or dead, I would think that this acronym could be classified as dead because the word "zip" seems to have taken on its own meaning that is not associated with the acronym. Also, this meaning of "zip" seems to have become accepted as part of the standard lexicon of English.

Interestingly, the OED lists the "zip" of "zip code" in lower case letters and does not mention anything about the need for capitalization.


So, Laura, you mean to tell me that every time I thought I was screwing this up by writing "zip" and not "ZIP"...I really wasn't?!? :) Yay!

J. Alfred Proofreader said...

Interesting about the OED. I've found conflicting sources on the term--the older being adherent to the acronym origins.



When I'm stymied like this, I consult "The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage," which is kind of like my Bible.

pg. 369: "ZIP code. The first word is all uppercase, the second all lowercase."

Maggie and NYT editors agree.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Actually, according to the U.S. Postal Service, it should be: ZIP Code. It's a trademark registered by the postal service. See this. Click on the hyperlinked letter Z on that page to see the entry for "ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) Code."

The Ridger, FCD said...

"zip code" is like "scuba" - it no longer needs to be capitalized.

Erika said...

I'm glad in Canada, we call it a Postal Code. Zero confusion :)

Brian said...

Second day in a row I've had to correct you.

I've got things to do other than bailing your ass out every day. Oh, wait... I don't do I?

"...even wise-ass Grammarphiles aren't always perfect"

Correction: Sure you are, and don't let anyone tell you any different.

My philosophy: Deny all culpability in anything, unless it was something good.
Then it's all me.

Which is why the blog is called: I Blame You.

Okay, I have to get back to counting how many granules are in a bag of cat litter.

Where was I? Ohhh, God Da... I thought I wrote that down.

See. See the trouble you cause.


Great resource, J. Alfred! Thank you. This will come in handy!


Re: Katharine's and Ridger's comments... Oh, man. I'm so confused! So it looks like one of two things is happening: ZIP code was always supposed to be written with a capitalized "ZIP" but silly people (like, sometimes, me!) have gotten lazy and started *incorrectly* writing it as "zip"...or is it that *because* so many people did that, it's becoming so *acceptable* for people to write it as "zip" that people no longer consider it wrong and/or a mistake to do so?

(Who knew this entry would be such a hot topic?!? I'm really impressed with everyone's thoughts on this matter!)


Erika, I'm SO jealous of your lack of code and capitalization confusion! :)


Brian: Causing trouble is my JOB, dammit. Now, if only someone would be so kind as to PAY me for it.

b13 said...

I've worked for many years publishing mailers. My CE's always capitalize the "C" also in ZIP Code.

I would guess that the "C" is optional but the ZIP is necessary.


Ooh, b13, you've just added yet another layer to our very complex debate! :)

Editrix said...

The plot thickens:

"The Chicago Manual of Style" says "zip code" -- no caps anywhere.

"The AP Stylebook" says: "Use all-caps ZIP for Zoning Improvement Plan, but always lowercase the word code."


Thanks for your input, Editrix! :) So many rules, stylebooks, and guidelines...it's enough to make my pretty little head spin. Especially since there's no definitive answer as to which rule/stylebook is right when it comes to this issue!