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Walgreen? Walgreens? Gah!

"Should we spell Walmart with a hyphen?"

"Do we use the periods in J.P. Morgan?"

One of the many tasks we perform here at the CNBC news desk is to help producers with style questions for screen graphics, particularly involving corporate names. It would be nice if the only possible answers were "yes" or "no", but in many cases, it's a definite "maybe." And too many well-known companies have enough variations of their names to make one tear out what little hair one has left.




CNBC Breaking News Producer Peter Schacknow tries to make sense of the Walgreen/Walgreens? press release.
Source: Robert Hum
CNBC Breaking News Producer Peter Schacknow tries to make sense of the Walgreen/Walgreens? press release.

Several years ago, Exxon Mobil was kind enough to send out an e-mail blast, explaining that the company's proper legal name was Exxon Mobil Corp., but if we were referring to their brand name, it should be ExxonMobil, with no space.

Well, OK.

Then came the case of Wal-Mart. Or is it Walmart? Or maybe Wal*mart?

Turns out the company's legal name is Wal-Mart Stores. But its store brand is Walmart, and the signs on the stores include the "*".

I asked one of Wal-Mart's very kind public relations people about this once. His reply: "Don't get me started!!!".

Have you shopped at J.C. Penney lately? Or JC Penney? Or JCPenney? Perhaps the reason former CEO Ron Johnson didn't succeed at a turnaround is because he didn't decide to go with just one name.

Then we have banking giant JPMorgan Chase. That's how you spell it when you're referring to the entire company. But if we book one of the bank's analysts, we have to say he or she is from J.P. Morgan Securities, a spelling which harkens back to the days before J.P. Morgan merged with Chase Manhattan.

Then there's the most maddening case of all: Walgreen. Or Walgreens.

The drug-store operator brought name confusion to a whole new level over the past few years: its stores are called "Walgreens," but the official company name was "Walgreen Co." That would have been at least tolerable, but the company took to referring to itself as "Walgreens" even in corporate press releases, a convention its fellow corporate sinners thankfully did not follow.

Now, Walgreen(s) has completed a merger with Europe's Alliance Boots, and has changed its name to Walgreens Boots Alliance. I was relieved to see that the company had finally cleared up its name confusion — until I saw the name "Walgreen Boots Alliance" on the Nasdaq website.

This resulted in much consternation and several conflicting memos before we finally determined that the name was, indeed, "Walgreens Boots Alliance." I'm not going to say a WORD about reversing the words "Boots" and "Alliance".

It just may be that Walgreen(s) has taken the first step towards ending my personal corporate naming nightmare. But just in case, I submit the following plea to Corporate America: pick one name and stick to it!


Commentary by Peter Schacknow, senior producer for breaking news at CNBC. Follow him on Twitter @peterschack.