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Internet Grammar Concerns

With new technology comes new jargon. It can take years to agree on proper spelling and usage of words that seep into our vocabulary from common usage.

Technology and Internet Grammar

With new technology comes new jargon, and often it takes years before we can agree on the proper spelling and usage of words that seep into our vocabulary from common usage. The proliferation of words that have sprung up since the development of the Internet is a prime example of this phenomenon. While for some words there are generally-agreed-upon spellings and usages, there are others that are used with less standardization and therefore vary from publication to publication.  

Most style books and dictionaries agree that the words "Internet" and "Web" (when referring to the World Wide Web) should always be capitalized because they are proper nouns. There is only one Internet and only one World Wide Web.

Examples of Common Web and Internet Phrases

However, not everyone agrees on other Internet terminology. Initially, the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook used "Web site" -- always two words, but there are others who spell it as "Website," "website," or even "web site." Some consider it acceptable still to use "website" only when writing informally. Even the Stylebook changes. In 2010 the @APStylebook Twitter stream reported that they would change Web site to website.

While the AP Stylebook dictates that there is no hyphen in the word "online," others spell the word as "on-line" whether used as an adjective or an adverb.

Webster's Dictionary capitalizes the noun form of "E-mail" but uses the lowercase "e-mail" when using the word as a verb. The AP style was to use the lowercase "e-mail" for all instances. Many people still follow this, even though the AP style has changed. In almost all cases where the e is short for the word electronic, you will see the usage of e-. Some examples include e-mail, e-commerce, e-day, e-business, e-learning, and many more electronic words. Still others spell the word "email" with no hyphen or even the capitalized "Email."

In 2011, AP noted it would drop the hyphen from the word e-mail, so the correct style is now email. It also dropped the space in cell phone, leaving us with cellphone.

How to Deal with Internet Grammar

The best strategy an organization or publication can adopt when dealing with Internet jargon is to choose one "house style" and be consistent with that style and follow the guidelines of a specific dictionary or stylebook. For now, until all dictionaries and stylebooks can agree on standardization, all of the spellings and usages are correct.

In reality, there may never actually be a standardization of Internet jargon as the nature of the Internet invites a lack of standardization. Anyone with the know-how (or the money to pay someone with the know-how) can run a Web site and spell words any way he or she chooses without regard to editorial consistency.

Key Terms To Understanding Internet Grammar

A global network connecting millions of computers. More than 100 countries are linked into exchanges of data, news and opinions.

World Wide Web
A system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents.

Short for electronic mail, the transmission of messages over communications networks. The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard or electronic files stored on disk.

Did You Know...

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, one should never write .Www. (www with a capital W) just to honor the beginning of a sentence.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal is a freelance writer, covering business and Internet technology for more than a decade. She is also managing editor of

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