The Correct Spelling/Capitalization of Online Terms
How to capitalize and spell online terms still isn't standardized. The problem is that we have a rather large group of words that all became widely used very quickly--quicker than the usual period for integrating "new" words and terms into everyday usage.
Even though these terms have been around for going on ten years now, some of them still aren't listed in dictionaries, and one dictionary or style guide may capitalize a term that another dictionary or style guide doesn't.
What to do? As always, refer to our friend, "The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law." However, since I'm here you can just take my word for it--below is a list of the correct way to spell and capitalize the most common online terms. Clicking on a term will take you to the full explanation:
If the CG does ever jump off a bridge, it will be because she has finally been
driven crazy by people's refusal to write this word correctly. It has a hyphen and said hyphen may not be removed, despite what a well-known computer magazine's style manual advises. This is not just stubbornness on my part, nor is it a refusal to keep up with the times. (See "online" below.) It's due to the rules of pronunciation of the English language--rules that, P.S., I did not create. Because of those rules, this word: "email," is pronounced either "eh mail," or "ih mail," but not "ee mail." The "e" in "email" is short,
because it's directly before a consonant. That's the rule, and you can't start changing pronunciation rules for an entire language from word to word or chaos will reign. And then some fool will use that resulting language tumult as an excuse to try bringing back Esperanto. It's E-MAIL. If you use "email," you're wrong, it's wrong, you're stupid, it's stupid, the end, goodbye.
Many people capitalize both these words only because they see "Internet" capitalized and don't really know why. There are many "intranets" and "extranets," not just one of each, so these are not proper nouns and therefore not capitalized--no matter what the spellcheck in Microsoft Word says! Yes, the almighty Microsoft Office is wrong, thus providing further proof that Bill Gates is the Devil and Macs rule. (PR is the devil's business, but I'll discuss that further somewhere else on Dorritville.)
At this point in time most people and publications are using the spelling "online," whether as a verb, noun, or adjective. This is a perfect example of accelerated abridgment
of a word. At first it was "on-line," and that quickly became "on line." Since the term has become so widely used so fast, to make things easier most people and publications now spell it "online" for all uses. Unlike e-mail, in this case there's no problem removing the hyphen, because it doesn't affect the pronunciation of the word. This is identical to the evolution of the word "book-keeper" to "book keeper" to today's "bookkeeper," but it happened much faster.
World Wide Web
This is the same case as "Internet." There is only one "World Wide Web," so it's always capitalized.
Since the "Web" in "Web site" refers to the "World Wide Web," it should be capitalized and written as two words. Although some people write this as one word, "Website," this is not at all logical considering that it's written as two words any other time "Web" is used as an adjective ("Web technologies," Web strategies,"
Web Environment," etc.--you get the picture). So while "Website" isn't incorrect, it just doesn't make much sense.
You will see certain publications use "website." Obviously they find this spelling acceptable. I don't, and neither does the AP Stylebook. I'm assuming the rationale behind this is the fact that there are LOTS of Web sites. True, but even though there are many sites, there is still only one Internet, or "Web." If there's only one, it's a proper noun, and proper nouns get capped. (Sorry, lazy losers, I didn't make the rules, I just enforce them...)
Now, I'm sure there are going to be some smarty pantses out there who are saying, "Oh CG, you're so ungroovy and behind the times. No one uses a hyphen in 'e-mail' anymore or capitalizes 'Web site.'" Well, aside from the fact that the CG's little finger is groovier than your entire body, here are some rather well-known publications that spell/capitalize all the online terms in this article exactly the way they're listed above:
- "The New York Times"
- "The Wall Street Journal"
- "U.S. News and World Report"
Until next time,
don't forget that "good grammar is always in fashion."