I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

E-mail Becomes Email

I had to update my copy of the AP Stylebook,
but I wasn't happy about it.
The AP Stylebook recently made a change and I’m not very happy about it. They changed “e-mail” to “email,” dropping the hyphen, while keeping the hyphen in other terms such as “e-book,” “e-card” and “e-catalog.”

Anybody else find this wildly inconsistent?

I don’t like exceptions. They are hard to remember – so much so that we have to come up with rhymes like, “I before E except after C.”

Here’s the problem with that, as Wikipedia points out, there are even exceptions to the rhyme, such as: species, science, sufficient, conscience, ancient and efficient. When the exceptions have exceptions, you have chaos. When you have chaos, you have writers referring to style guides on a far too regular basis, which might be the real reason behind the change to email. More style guide sales.

Call my cynical if you like.

Here’s the Stylebook’s reasoning for dropping the hyphen in email: “The Stylebook’s change to email reflects the reality of usage. Other e- terms are clearer with the hyphen.”

So, since people violate the rule and use “email” rather than “e-mail,” the AP Stylebook just threw up their hands and said, “Enough! We must conform” thus violating the point of having a style guide in the first place.

Language changes. Terms change. I get that. But be consistent. If we are sick of hyphens when it comes to electronic commerce, then drop all of them – not just one.

I’m a Chicago Manual of Style person. Most book publishers use it and that’s the style guide I’m accustomed to following. But when I started writing for newspapers I had to learn the AP Stylebook and I attempt to follow it when writing here, even though it drives me crazy.

The AP Stylebook is against the serial comma, which deserves its own post. It advocates ellipses that look like this ... rather than this . . . and it demands that we use quotation marks around book and movie titles rather than italics (I rebel against both the AP Stylebook and CMS here at Little Nuances in this case – maybe I can start a revolution that will change the reality of usage.)

Now that the Stylebook has killed “e-mail,” I can’t help but wonder what perfectly good rule or word it will change in the 2012 edition.


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