GrammarPhile Blog

The Internet, Email, and E-Books

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 10, 2011 5:30:00 AM

The following is a guest post by Alexis Bonari.

As a disclaimer, I admit to being a young writer and fairly new to the blogosphere. Being those two things, however, I’ve learned of two other things that continually get me steaming.

E-mail or Email

You may be aware that on March 18, the Associated Press announced that the word e-mail has, in the almighty AP Stylebook, evolved into email. They gave my beloved hyphen the boot.

Many freelance tech writers long ago made the switch, but I was among the sticklers who said, “No, there’s a reason it’s there.” I still am. I won’t attribute this to a conservative tendency to reject the evolution of language. For me, it’s a matter of consistency. For example, most professional websites keep the hyphen in the terms e-book (electronic book) and e-waste (electronic waste). Should e-mail be any different? I realize I’m grousing over a vestige of the Internet Stone Age but I have to wonder.

I suppose with the passage of time AP will kick the hyphens out of those words, too. What makes my nose scrunch up in distaste is their refusal to treat e- words differently. Separate but equal? I can’t remember the last time that worked out well.

Internet or Just internet

“Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the ‘I’ in internet.”

That’s how Tony Long began this article way back in 2004. Seven years later, much of the internet community has yet to follow in his footsteps, even though Tony had me convinced. (Did I use it right?)

“If It's Capitalized, It Must Be Important. In German, where all nouns are capitalized, it makes sense,” he rants. “It makes no sense in English. So until we become Die Wired Nachrichten, we'll just follow customary English-language usage.”

Some, like Tony, don’t like the idea of treating it as a proper noun. (The word internet came from internetwork, which we don’t capitalize.) Others say it should be capitalized as a noun but not as a verb. Why capitalize it at all? Because it’s important? As Tony points out, we don’t capitalize the word television, which was also a revolutionary technological achievement that changed American society. Neither do we capitalize the words radio or movable type. What makes the net so special?

Admittedly, not capitalizing the net could make matters confusing. Are we talking things that catch fish and women sometimes think are cool things to wrap their legs in, or are we talking about the internet? The same goes for the web. Still, I feel like context is a pretty powerful thing. We could probably figure out for ourselves that a woman does not in fact want to surf a fishing net (although crazier things have happened).


Those lovely ladies and gentlemen over at AP know about a million things I don’t. I know that much. I’m also fairly certain that the majority of the internet (indulge me) population has continued to capitalize the “I” for a good reason. It just doesn’t sit right with me. How does everyone else feel about this?

Author's Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching scholarships for sports management students as well as scholarships for nursing grad students. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.


If you use any of these words in your documents, you might want to have our editors look them over before you send them out. Here's an offer: let us do a free Level 1 proofreading of your document before you send it out. If you're a new business client and haven't used our service before, get the details of our offer.

Topics: hyphenation, capitalization

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all