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Writing Tip: November 30, 2003

Update on Cyberlanguage

Those of you who have been subscribers for years may remember our October 2001 tip on cyberlanguage--specifically, on the words "Internet," "e-mail," "Web site," and "online." (To read that original tip, go to the tip archive.)

Two years ago, we pointed out that these words are very new to the English language and thus are still in the process of evolving. Now that both the Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary--two of the most reputable sources of information about usage--have come out with their new editions, we thought it would be helpful to provide an update on the acceptable forms of these cyberterms. (Those of you who own our book of writing tips may want to print out this information and insert it at page 40.)

Of the four terms we discussed, the rules governing two of them remain unchanged:

(1) "Internet" is still capitalized.

(2) "Web site" is still an open compound (that is, two separate words), and we still capitalize only the word "Web" (because it is a shortened form of the proper name "World Wide Web").

The brand new eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary advocates the lowercase "e" in all forms (i.e., noun, verb, adjective) of the word "e-mail." Notice, though, that both Webster's and the latest version of the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition, 2003) still use the hyphen in the word "e-mail."

You may recall from our earlier cyberlanguage tip that even in 2001, the American Heritage Dictionary asserted that we were moving toward dropping the hyphen in that word, but Webster's decision to retain the hyphen suggests that the nonhyphenated version has not yet become widely acceptable.

In addition, whereas in the fourteenth edition Webster's hyphenated "online" (as "on-line"), the latest version presents it as a closed compound, dropping the hyphen in all forms.

Here, then, are the currently acceptable forms of these four cyberterms:

Internet
Web site
e-mail
online

Copyright 2003 Get It Write

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