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SURVEY: Is it Web or web, Internet or internet, eBook or E-book?

By Hannah Johnson

ethernet internet cablesThere appears to be little agreement on just how to write out technology-related words. Even the more common words like website and internet are not always written the same way. In 2010, the AP Stylebook declared that “Web site” should now be written as “website.” The Chicago Manual of Style agrees. So why do journalistic institutions like the New York Times still use “Web site” instead?

And remember when the internet was still considered a proper noun? Or is it still the Internet?

When it comes to e-books, you’ll find all varieties of the word, most likely based on personal preference of whoever is writing the text. Both the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style say “e-book” is the proper form. But when it comes to email, AP says you should not use a dash while Chicago says you should write it as “e-mail.”

It’s all so confusing! So what do you think? Take our surveys below and tell us how you write these words.

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  1. Peter Cook
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Rules, like empty bottles lined up on a fence, are fun to shoot at. Rules →style→art. A clawhammer banjo artist frailing away in the string section of the philharmonic could be fun to watch—if hard to explain. Headlines on September 11, 1966 quoted LBJ’s hipsterism “cool it” in an address to the U.S. Congress. “Put the music to it, Dick,” was his supposed standing order for JFK-era holdover speechwriter Richard Goodwin; Mr. Goodwin was nowhere to be found in the White House writers’ room by 1966, though.

    Today’s blogger-playwright-biographer-screenwriter-memoirist-novelist-journo hybrid needs the OED and urbandictionary.com in equal measure. Today’s spectrum is wider than Montaigne or Pope or Swift or Cicero or your eighth-grade pedant-lovin’ grammar school teacher could have ever dreamed. Web (versus web) shows respect for Tim Berners-Lee. Internet (versus internet) shows an acknowledgement of the peculiar nature of this mode of telephony. In the days of the Pony Express, one might have marveled at the Telegram. Buckminster Fuller used to marvel at how little respect Earthlings had for Earth: earth rides under the famer’s boot, Earth rides the farm around the galaxy. A capital letter is the least homage we can pay her, thought Fuller.

    Some people, all-growed up and with lots and lots of book-learnin’, can nowadays be found to unapologetically and unabashedly ape the kidz by signing their e-mails without capitalizing their own first names. Maybe, like earrings on Squares, this’ll pass—or simply be perceived as being as silly an affectation as it is. But the bottom line is that we need rules so that we can have style so that we pick and choose who and what we like and don’t like. So bring on those really big Rule Books—and keep ’em coming. Please & Thank You.

  2. Laura Diane
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    As an avid reader it is much easier to understand what is being written if the rules are followed. I could care less about rules in FB or Twitter posts, but if I spend good money for a book I expect the writer, editor and publisher to have enough self-respect to put out a product that basically follows the rules. Of course there are exceptions to that: slang for the sake of dialogue or expanding on a sense of place.

    I also believe that one needs to learn the rules before one can break them with style and panache. So, all you junior high and high school English teachers please keep spreading the word about the rules. There’s a time and place for knowledge. Then there’s a time and place to let that knowledge expand into artful creations.

  3. Posted April 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Bear in mind that, when it comes to newspapers, the preferred house style is often the one that takes up the least amount of space. So a lower case i will take up less space on a page than an upper case I in most fonts, while losing the hyphen in email will save that extra em. E-book will doubtless go the same way as email in house styles, but it’s still a relatively new word for many readers to be bandying around, so the extra hyphen can help with clarity in the meanwhile.

  4. Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    In our English language as words or terms lose their ‘particular’ or unique reference and become ‘generic’ they lose capital letters. So The Internet becomes the internet, Website becomes website. Now then; e-book started as an abbreviation for electronic book. The term is now commonplace (think The Press now the press or The Government now the government) so ebook feels right to me.

    Tom Bryson

  5. Posted April 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure about other publications but when people are writing for the web, writers are often they thinking about how dashes or spaces might affect their search engine rankings. For example, if you enter ebook into the search engines you get entirely different results than if you enter e-book.

    This can keep things from becoming consistent. Just a thought.

  6. Posted April 17, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I found this post timely and the comments interesting. I’m writing a book on Internet and web site sales for companies. This post confirmed that, for metadata (or is it meta data) purposes, I will use as many of the most common used terms in the text of the book as I can. This will be useful whether readers search for e-books or eBooks regardless.

    From a business perspective, at a Canadian publishing insider’s event in mid-2011, an old guard (late 50’s, early 60’s something) grammatically correct stalwart discussed – perhaps pontificated describes him better – on what he considered the horrors of currently lax editorial e-book quality controls. The room of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings listened as he hogged the floor during what was to have been an open forum. A few brave souls spoke up and tried to add their perspective: as long as the intended meaning of the author could be correctly interpreted by the reader, the author and publisher had done their jobs. That only riled him up even further. Finally, someone spoke up and said, “Let’s take a vote if we want to keep listening to him or move on?” They unanimously decided to move on.

    After the session, 20 or so people remained in the room and discussed how they were far more concerned about getting good stories and ideas to their readers than spending another 3-6 edits to get an ebook ‘perfect’ – although they all wanted to get it to the highest standards possible. Their work-a-day equation was also burdened by high work loads and being told by their superiors that they had to get the e-Books out fast.

    With fewer staff resources, tight budgets and even tighter deadlines, all were concurred that they could only do the best that they could do. And language used would necessarily change and evolve, based on their new constrained business and cultural paradigms.

    Many publishers and editors serve their readers well. But what became very clear during that discussion was that publishers’ employees are overwhelmed. Many are under pressure to release e-books that have gone through only two and not six editorial passes. If it needs to be fixed, they’ll go back an fix it. If not, they’ll keep moving to release the next 20-50 titles in their hoppers. This is the new e-normal.

    I’d like to think that we can maintain the highest editorial standards possible. But in today’s virtual world, publishing pro’s must read, edit and publish titles ultra-fast, and move on to the next project faster than others can spit. They have to beat their publishing competitors and self-publishing upstarts to the e-cash register.

    No one will have a hernia if someone doesn’t use a hyphen. There’s truly is no disrespect intended or shown if a capital letter is made lower case. Most of us simply want – and have – to keep moving to the next new word, paragraph or item we have to – or want to – read.

    Here’s to happy e-reading for us all!

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