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Is REALTOR® the Right Word?

Selecting the right word to convey an idea or image is an intricate part of preparing any article for publication. Not only must the nature and knowledge of the audience be taken into consideration, but often there are space or other restrictions which affect choices. However, these decisions are never more important than when dealing with articles to or about real estate professionals and when deciding whether the term REALTOR® should be used in a particular context.

REALTOR® is a collective membership mark owned by the National Association and licensed to each member of the Association to use when identifying themselves as members. When it is used in an article it should only be used to describe someone or some group as members of the Association. It should never be used to describe someone as a real estate agent or broker or in referring to people in the real estate business generally. Check this by looking at the context and asking whether you are talking about someone or some group as members of the Association, or simply as real estate practitioners.

Why it may be asked is it important that these distinctions be carefully observed? The answer to that is in two parts. First, the term REALTOR® is the one universal way members of the Association have to distinguish themselves from all others in the real estate profession. For example, if the Board were to accomplish something of significance to the community, the only way members may share in that goodwill is through their ability to use the term REALTOR® to identify themselves as members. Second, every time a member of the Association uses the term REALTOR® incorrectly and allows the public to think that the term describes anyone with a job in the real estate business, they are diminishing the ability of the term to distinguish members from non-members and demonstrating indifference to its value. On the other hand each time it is used correctly, the exact opposite is occurring and the value of the term REALTOR® is increased not only for that user, but also for every other member.

Once you have assured that REALTOR® is the correct word, the rules governing the proper form for the term apply to distinguish for the audience the significance of the term REALTOR® from the words surrounding it. The most common way to accomplish this is to use all upper case letters and the federal registration symbol, an R inside a circle. The rules indicate that members should use this form whenever possible, but also indicate that all upper case letters or upper and lower case letters with the registration symbol are also acceptable, although less preferred forms for the term REALTOR®. In this article the registration symbol has not been used because it has been prepared for distribution over the Internet. Some Internet browser software is not equipped to recognize or understand this symbol when it appears in a document. All lower case letters should never be used to spell out the term REALTOR®, and upper and lower cases without the registration symbol should only be used in cases where style requirements prevent one of the acceptable uses. An example of this last situation would be in writing news releases for the media. Most newspapers operate with a style guide which does not permit the use of all upper case letters or the registration symbol in the body of stories. Therefore, to avoid excessive editing of Association news releases, the term REALTOR® may be used with upper and lower cases letters and no registration symbol.

More questions on the proper use of the REALTOR® marks? Check the Membership Marks Manual, Policy Reference File No. 109.