editorial

House Style

Since we work with a variety of internal and external writers, we follow this guide to ensure all our work is consistent, no matter where someone encounters it.


Writing About People

At Herman Miller, we approach writing the same way we approach design: from a human-centered perspective. We write for and about people in a way that’s respectful of their time and diverse points of view, compassionate about their needs, and inclusive of everyone’s unique personhood. We are aware of the impact that language has on everyone’s perception of Herman Miller, and we work every day to make choices that will help make our company a better place to work, a better partner to do business with, and a better steward of the values we aspire to live up to. 

These guidelines for writing about people have been influenced heavily by (and in some parts, reproduced in their entirety from) the Mailchimp Content Style Guide under a Creative Commons License.

Race

Our editorial standards regarding race are evolving, as are those of journalists and writers everywhere. However, our goal whenever we write about people remains unchanged: to always be respectful of those we write about and of our readers.

As of July 8, 2020, the Herman Miller Brand Editorial Team has decided in practice to follow the lead of The New York Times and others using the word "Black" with an uppercase "B" in references to people and cultures of African origin.

Heritage and Nationality

Never refer to a person's dual heritage or nationality without first confirming with that person that such a reference is how they would self-identify. Then, if they confirm, don’t use hyphens to construct their dual heritage or nationality. For example, use “Asian American” instead of “Asian-American.”

Gender Identity and Sexuality

Don’t refer to groups of people as “guys” or women as “girls.”

Use neutral alternatives to common gendered terms such as “craft” instead of “craftsmanship” or “business owner” or “professional” instead of “businessman.”

When writing about a person, use their communicated pronouns. When in doubt, ask—or use their name. It’s completely acceptable usage for “they” to be used as singular.

Use the following words as modifiers if needed, but never as nouns: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Trans, Queer, LGBT. Do no use the term “transgendered.”

Never use these words in reference to LGBT people or communities: Homosexual, Lifestyle, Preference.

Don’t use “same-sex” marriage, unless the distinction is relevant to your topic. Avoid the term “gay marriage.”

Age

Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If it is relevant, include the person’s specific age, offset by commas (Example: The CEO, 16, just got her drivers license.)

Don’t refer to people using age-related descriptors, like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”

Disability

Don’t refer to a person’s disability unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. 

If a reference to a person’s disability is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with medical conditions or mental and cognitive conditions: Emphasize the person first, and don’t refer to the person as a “victim.” The sentence “She has a disability” is much better than “She is disabled.”

When writing about a person with disabilities, avoid words like “suffer,” “victim,” or “handicapped.”

Medical Conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s medical condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.

If a reference to a person’s medical condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities or mental or cognitive conditions: Emphasize the person first, and don't refer to the person as a “victim.”

Mental and Cognitive Conditions

Don’t refer to a person’s mental or cognitive condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.

Never assume that someone has a medical, mental, or cognitive condition.

Don't describe a person as “mentally ill.”

If a reference to a person’s mental or cognitive condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities or medical conditions: Emphasize the person first, and don’t refer to the person as a “victim.”

Vision

Use the adjective “blind” to describe a person who is unable to see. Use “low vision” to describe a person with limited vision.


Writing About Design

Our designers aim to solve problems, but they do so in a way that goes beyond expectations to surprise and delight our customers. The following guidelines are presented to help you keep this point of view front-of-mind when writing about design at Herman Miller.

Design

Design is both a verb and a noun, a means of asking questions as well as a label for the answer. When we use “design” as a verb, the actor is usually one of our design partners. When we use it as a noun, it is not a synonym for “product,” but inclusive of an idea that culminates in a product.

Top: Ayse Birsel, Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton, Don Chadwick, George Nelson
Center: Charles and Ray Eames, Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings, Isamu Noguchi, Alexander Girard
Bottom: Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, Bill Stumpf, Jack Kelley, Robert Propst

Authored Design

We work with outside designers in part because they provide a new lens through which to view the world. The interaction between these designers and Herman Miller is a balancing act, a push and pull that, when done with civility, respect, curiosity, and enterprise, may result in solutions that tend toward relative permanence. When describing our role in the design process, we are a partner, a collaborator, a facilitator, a conduit to our designers. And yes, ultimately, we are the manufacturer.

Our Design Partners

“I have never met a designer who was retained to keep things the same as they were.” - George Nelson

Meet Our Designers

Modernism

Modernism in Europe began as a political and social movement after the devastation of World War I. In the years following World War II, a different kind of modernism emerged, a modernism founded on the premise of personal prosperity not societal utopia. Our designers from this era were as influenced by the ideals of American modernism as they were driven by individual vision.

As consumer tastes changed in the later decades of the 20th century, modernism fell out of fashion. Americans were embracing the latest technology in terms of automobiles and personal electronics but living in homes from a different era. At the close of the 20th century, modernism became aspirational.

At Herman Miller, our relationship with “modern” has followed the popular culture. In the 1970s and ’80s we discontinued many of our most notable designs from the height of modernism in the 1950s and ’60s. In the decades since, one by one, we’ve reintroduced them for a growing segment of our audience once again eager to embrace “modern design.”

We might allude to the historical context of a product such as the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman (“A Modern Icon”), but we also emphasize its relevance for today (“to bring greater pleasure to our lives”).

How do we communicate the history of American modernism on a product page on hermanmiller.com? The short answer is, we don’t. The problems that designers were solving at the height of American modernism are still relevant today. What’s more, their solutions were incredibly timeless.

How to Talk About Modernism

“Modern” is hardly a banned word, but we are particular about its use. Use it to provide historical context for designers from the height of American modernism (the 1950s and ’60s) and their designs, many of which are still in production or have, in recent years, been reintroduced.

Do not use “modern” as a synonym for “contemporary.”

Style

A designer’s work might share some common characteristics, and we might refer to the sum total of these as their personal design “style” or ”aesthetic.”

That said, the designers with whom we work do not typically ascribe to a school of thought, or style of design. They strive to solve problems, and in their solutions, they strive for timelessness.

Beauty

When he was asked what was more important—beauty or function—the iconic Herman Miller designer Charles Eames responded, “I should make a choice between keeping my head or my heart?” We don’t ask our designers to make this choice. In fact, we give them a tougher task—not to pick one or the other, but to consistently achieve both. Products designed that way tend to last—and we’re fortunate to have a portfolio of products that not only function exceedingly well, but do also add beauty to the world.

Since beauty is so subjective, writing about the beauty of a designed object can be problematic. So we might show off the beauty of a product in photography and concentrate our editorial on its function, which is often harder to show.

How to Talk About Beauty

“Beauty” is by no means a banned word at Herman Miller, but we tend to leave the determination of how beautiful a particular product is to others. Instead, we favor “beautifully” as an adverb modifying how a product might fit into an environment or how an armrest might curve into a chair leg rather than describing a product as “beautiful.”

Books About Design

These are our canonical references for historical background on our company and information about many of our most prominent furniture designers.

The definititve Herman Miller corporate history

External LinkVisit External Link

Reference for chronology and provenance of works by Charles and Ray Eames

External LinkVisit External Link

A complete retrospective of Nelson's work

External LinkVisit External Link

The comprehensive view of Girard's career output

External LinkVisit External Link

The reprint of Noguchi's 1968 autobiography

External LinkVisit External Link

The first and only monograph to celebrate Ward Bennett

External LinkVisit External Link

Usage

Parts of Speech

Every brand has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to usage. At Herman Miller, a drive for clarity and expressiveness shapes ours.

Nouns

We’ll quote William Zinsser on nouns from his classic guide, On Writing Well. Appraising a 1936 Thanksgiving proclamation by Yale English professor-turned-Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross, Zinsser writes:

“Notice how many of the governor’s words are anything but vague: leaves, wind, frost, air, evening, earth, comforts, soil, labor, breath, body, justice, courage, peace, land, rites, home. They are homely words in the best sense—they catch the rhythm of the seasons and the dailiness of life. Also notice that all of them are nouns. After verbs, plain nouns are your strongest tools; they resonate with emotion.”

To paraphrase Zinsser’s advice: There are concrete consequences for getting caught holding a bag full of abstract nouns. You’ll lose your audience and possibly your opportunity to write for Herman Miller.

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns, such as “Herman Miller,” are often the subject of a sentence. Don’t get carried away with rhetorical flourishes and assign action to a proper noun that doesn’t make sense. Instead of writing “Herman Miller values transparency in how it does business,” opt for “At Herman Miller, we value transparency in how we do business.”

Personification

Avoid personifying inanimate objects, especially products. Instead of writing “Canvas Office Landscape creates anything from public spaces to private offices,” recast the sentence to something like “With Canvas Office Landscape, you can create anything from public spaces to private offices.”

Verbs

We like verbs. Verbs make us happy. But more than that, verbs make writing lively. 

As Zinsser writes, verbs “push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully. Active verbs also enable us to visualize an activity because they require a pronoun … or a noun … or a person … to put them in motion.” 

Sentences that merely define states of being lack the same force. They are necessary sometimes, but often they are a drag on prose. You might say they drag prose down—and you probably should (as opposed to saying “they are a drag”), especially when writing on behalf of Herman Miller. 

Zinsser concurs: “The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style—in clarity and vigor—is the difference between life and death for a writer.” So fill your quiver with strong verbs and deploy at will.

Gerunds

Our love of verbs runs out with gerunds, which are actually nouns made by adding -ing to verbs. Avoid using gerunds as the subject of a sentence. The resulting sentences feel weak and may cause confusion when it's unclear if the subject is a gerund or a present participle. Use gerunds primarily as the complement or object of a sentence.

Adjectives and Adverbs

Don’t go overboard when using adjectives and adverbs. Specific nouns and strong verbs don't need much help. If you use those, your writing won’t require as many modifiers to sparkle.

Punctuation

We typically defer to our standard reference, The Chicago Manual of Style, for all punctuation rules, but you'll benefit from learning our preferences in areas where Chicago can be less than definitive or where we've historically chosen to deviate from it.

Apostrophe

Possessive nouns are fairly straightforward: add an apostrophe and an "s" and you're set (e.g., "the designer's role"). Questions arise when creating the possessive form of proper nouns, particularly those that already end in "s."

To create the possessive form of a singular proper noun ending in "s," add an apostrophe followed by an "s" (e.g., "Michael Anastassiades's studio").

When the proper noun ends in "s" because it is plural, we treat the possessive a little differently. To create the possessive form of a plural proper noun ending in "s," simply add the apostrophe without adding another "s" (e.g., “the Eameses’ legacy”). 

Because the plural possessive form of the last name of our beloved designers, Charles and Ray Eames, can be a bit of a mouthful for your readers, If it’s possible to write around it without bogging down your writing, give it a try (e.g., “the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames”).

Comma

Herman Miller uses the serial comma, a.k.a., the Oxford comma, in lists of three or more items. For example, “Matthew comes to us with an extensive background in retail development, where he has led teams of merchants, designers, and contractors to achieve exceptional environments and customer experiences.”

If a date appears in a sentence, use a comma to set off the year. For example, “Join us on November 14, 2021, for an Aeron hockey tournament.”

Use a comma to bring clarity to the written expression of large numerals. Examples: 1,000 chairs; 8,000 employees worldwide; operating expenses of $250,000.

Em Dash

Use in front and at the end of a list or other information parenthetical to the main point of a sentence. Em dashes usually comes in pairs, but don’t necessarily have to. Avoid using more than two in a sentence. Don’t put spaces before or after the em dash.

Exclamation Point

Use sparingly, if at all.

Spacing

Put one space after a period (or other appropriate end punctuation) at the end of a sentence.

Numbers

Spell out numbers nine and under. Use numerals for the number 10 and above. It's acceptable to mix the two in the same sentence. An exception is price book copy that describes product features, as in “4-star base” or “sold in sets of 2.”

For numbers four digits and larger—with the exception of years—use a comma every three places for clarity. It may be common usage to reserve comma separators for numbers 10,000 and larger, but doing so for 1,000 and larger is not considered bad style. 

Ordinals

Spell out ordinal numbers nine and under (e.g. first, second, third), but use numerals and the appropriate abbreviation for 10th, 11th, and so on.

For centuries and floors within a building, use the ordinal numbers.

Phone Numbers

Phone numbers should have spaces and no dashes or periods, as in 616 654 3000.

Percentages

Spell out “percent” in text; use the symbol (%) in charts and graphs.

Decades

When referring to a decade, do not use a space or an apostrophe, as in 1990s or 90s.

Time

Write times without periods, as in 3:30 pm or 8 am.

A range of times with days of the week—our store hours, for example—should be written as days of the week with an en dash between them, followed by a comma, and the range of times. For example: Monday–Saturday, 11 am–6 pm.

Financials

There are several acceptable ways to express financials: $6 billion, $6B, or USD6B.

Dates

Dates in text should be spelled out, as in Monday, September 13, 2012. If the same date is being used in a chart, you may instead use 09.13.2012.

Units

On product specs for the North America market, list product dimensions in English system units using inch marks (e.g. 29”) or foot marks (e.g. 3’).

Capitalization

Combined with the general rules laid out in The Chicago Manual of Style, these tips for general capitalization tips for all punctuation rules, but you'll benefit from learning our preferences in areas where Chicago can be less than definitive or where we've historically chosen to deviate from it.

Product Names

The first time a product name is mentioned in a communication, be sure to use the appropriate noun after the trade name and initial capitalize both. as in “The Aeron Chair set new standards for performance and design.” In subsequent references, it’s fine to simply use the product trade name by itself, as in “Aeron is a revolution in ergonomics that has become a design icon.”

Titles and Department

Initial capitalize titles and department names. Here are some examples:

  • New Product Commercialization
  • Work Team Leader
  • Vice President of Brand Design
  • Performance Environments
  • Senior Graphic Designer
  • Board of Directors (Note: Don't use initial caps when referring to any board of directors, only when referring to a specific group.)

Headlines

Capitalize the first letter each word in a headline except articles and prepositions, i.e., Title Case.

There are two exceptions: prepositions with five letters or more, as in “A Tale Told Between Idiots”, and the second word in two hyphenated words, as in “The Big Two-Hearted River”).

There may be units of copy that function as a headline on our websites, but that do not use title case. These are typically longer statements (8 words or more), so the aesthetic choice was made by our Digital Design team to use sentence case for these items. Consult our Digital platform guidelines to learn more about our general webpage components.

Other Capitalization Rules

Do not capitalize the term “settings,” unless you are using it as a proper noun accompanied by “Living Office” or naming a specific LIving Office Setting, e.g. Clubhouse Setting, Haven Setting, etc. Similarly, do not capitalize “landscape,” unless using it as a proper noun with Living Office, as in Living Office Landscape.

Abbreviations

Don’t abbreviate unless absolutely necessary.

Never abbreviate Herman Miller as “HM” or “HMI.” For formal communications, use “Herman Miller, Inc.” Herman Miller trades under the symbol “MLHR” on NASDAQ, but unless you're specifically writing about company stock, that abbreviation should not find its way into your writing.

Abbreviations in charts and graphs are acceptable.

When making an acronym plural, us an s only, with no apostrophe. For example: IRTs or CEOs.

When used in a chart, you can abbreviate the word pounds as “lbs” with no period required. Otherwise, spell it out.

You can use the percent symbol (%) in a chart or graph. Otherwise, spell it out.

End Notes

When using a footnote, the superscript number should go outside the punctuation.

When using a source that is cited within another a source, find the original if possible, and cite the original in your content.

Use the following end note format:

[Author first name], [author last name]. [Title of article], [URL or title of publication, then name of publisher]. [Date—accessed or, if available, published], [page number if applicable].

Reference Guides

We follow the lead of these resources on questions of spelling, grammar, usage, punctuation, and capitalization.

Our dictionary of record for American English spelling

External LinkVisit External Link

Our resource for information on grammar and usage

External LinkVisit External Link

If you need access to the Chicago Manual of Style, get in touch with your Herman Miller editorial contact for login information.


Spelling

All brands have adopted distinctive spellings or syntax that may bend or even break common rules of grammar. Our writing teams regularly revisit this list, adding to it as new quirks pop up in the work.

List of Spelling Terms
TermClarification

armpad

one word

-back

hyphenate when used to distinguish chair sizes (e.g., high-back)

CMF

abbreviation for colors, materials, and finishes; use as a single collective noun or adjective; capitalize

co-create

hyphenate

coat rack

two words, no hyphen

coworker, coworking

one word, no capitalization, no hyphen

eCommerce

one word, capital C, no hyphen

email

no hyphen

evite

one word, no space, no hyphen

floorplan

one word, no space, no hyphen

floorplate

one word, no space, no hyphen

footring

one word, no space, no hyphen

GreenHouse

In reference to our seating manufacturing facility: one word, capital H. Alternatively referred to as GSO, or Global Seating Operations.

healthcare

one word, no space, no hyphen

homepage

one word, no space, no hyphen

markerboard

use in place of “whiteboard”

mid-back

hyphenate

mid-century

hyphenate

MoMA

abbreviation for Museum of Modern Art: Capital M, small o, capital M, capital A

New York City

When referring to the Herman Miller store at 251 Park Avenue South, we prefer to say “our New York City store” instead of “our Manhattan store.”

Nurses Stations

no apostrophe, descriptive versus possessive

off-campus

hyphenate when used as an adjective

on-campus

hyphenate when used as an adjective

online

one word, no space

open plan

two words, no hyphen (even when used as an adjective)

place making

two words

PO Box

no periods

problem-solving design

hyphenate when “problem-solving” is used as an adjective

sit-to-stand

hyphenate when used as an adjective and in reference to Herman Miller products

start-up

hyphenate

sightlines

one word, no space, no hyphen

tackboard

one word, no space, no hyphen

that

use with restrictive clause; use “which” set off by commas with relative clause; British English is the opposite

toolkit

one word, no space, no hyphen

user

avoid; “person,” “individual,” and “visitor,” preferred

videoconferencing

one word, no space, no hyphen

website

one word, do not capitalize

well-being

hyphenate

which

use with relative clause, set off by commas; British English is the opposite

whiteboard

one word, no space, no hyphen; “markerboard” preferred

white sweep, white-sweep

when used as a noun, two words; when used as an adjective, hyphenate

Wi-Fi

hyphenate, capital W and F

wishlist

one word, no space, no hyphen

workpoint

one word, no space, no hyphen

workspace

one word, no space, no hyphen

workstation

one word, no space, no hyphen

work style

two words, no hyphen

work surface

two words, no hyphen

work table

two words, no hyphen


Trademarks and Copyrights

Questions about where and how often to mark our trade names in copy can vex even our most senior editors. We've captured the best of their knowledge here—along with input from the Herman Miller Legal Services Department—to provide a sort of introductory guide for writers on trademarks and copyrights. For deeper study or answers to specific questions, please contact Legal Services.

Trademarks

A trademark is a word or symbol that identifies a product and connects it with its source; a service mark performs the same function for a service. Trade dress is a type of another type of legal protection for product, packaging, or environmental design.

The branded names given to our products or services (i.e. trade names) can be protected as trademarks and service marks. Herman Miller and our family of brands have several active trade marks and service marks, and have been granted trade dress protection on a number of our product designs.

Trademarks, service marks, and trade dress protection are valuable because they let customers know that the product or service they're investing in is authentic. Entities who violate any of these can be punished.

Registered vs. Common Law Trademarks

The ® symbol indicates that a trademark has been registered with a national trademark office. The ™ symbol indicates that a trademark is not registered but is in use by the company, and that said company intends to claim legal rights in the trademark (this is also referred to as common law trademark use).

In the US, these symbols should be used to “mark” Herman Miller’s trademarks to:

  • Provide notice of Herman Miller’s rights in the trademarks
  • Maintain our rights in a trademark
  • Ensure that all remedies would be available to Herman Miller in the case of infringement

How to Mark

The ® or ™ symbol should be placed immediately following the first instance of the full trademark name, or following the most prominent use of the trademark, in all print or published materials.

Whenever possible, the appropriate symbol should appear in superscript in the upper right-hand corner of a mark. 

If the first instance of the trademark is in the title, it is appropriate to use the symbol on the first instance in the text, or in another prominent place that does not negatively affect the aesthetic appearance of the material.

After a first prominent use, the respective trademark symbol may be dropped from the remaining uses of the trademark within the material.

For logos, the symbol may be placed in another appropriate location. Always mark the full trademark name.

Third-Party Marks

It is not necessary to note another company’s mark, but it is permissible if the mark is being used to truthfully refer to another company’s product and is not being used to mislead affiliation, sponsorship, or endorsement of Herman Miller’s products or services.

When third-party marks are used, the owners of all third-party marks used in a given material should be identified separately within the same legal sign-off that identifies all marks claimed or owned by Herman Miller and our family of brands. This sign-off typically comes at the end of the material, on the same page as the copyright information.

Our Trademarks

Find a full list of trademarks and copyrights owned by us, our subsidiaries, our Alliance Partners, and frequently referenced third parties.

View our Trademarks

Resources

Our dictionary of record for American English spelling

External LinkVisit External Link

Our resource for information on grammar and usage

External LinkVisit External Link

William Zinsser's classic guide to writing nonfiction

External LinkVisit External Link

The definititve Herman Miller corporate history

External LinkVisit External Link

Reference for chronology and provenance of works by Charles and Ray Eames

External LinkVisit External Link

A complete retrospective of Nelson's work

External LinkVisit External Link

The comprehensive view of Girard's career output

External LinkVisit External Link

The reprint of Noguchi's 1968 autobiography

External LinkVisit External Link

The first and only monograph to celebrate Ward Bennett

External LinkVisit External Link