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May 24

Kickin' It AP Style: Grammar on the Web


In: Strategy Insights

On March 18th, at the esteemed National Conference of the American Copy Editors Society the Associated Press made a bombshell announcement that quickly reverberated through new and old media alike: E-mail was officially losing its hyphen, effective 3 a.m. EDT Saturday, March 19.

It was the hyphen drop heard round the world. News outlets reported a collective sigh of relief from English majors who felt not just absolved of their sins of de-hyphenation, but a sense of hope for a future where the word Internet need not be capitalized. It was, for some of us, a big day.

First, a bit of background:

The Associated Press, in addition to occupying the majority of bylines in most local newspapers, is also is THE standard for writing for reporters and editors, which in turn makes it the standard for most marketers as well. The AP Stylebook lays out rules for punctuation and serves as the final word for most of your day-to-day word quandaries and grammar face-offs.

So it’s a big deal when the AP says we can finally stop adding the hyphen to email. Except, of course, that most of us stopped doing that around the time Ally McBeal was still on the air. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that the AP Stylebook decided to go with the flow and finally change Web site to website. In 2008, six years after the creation of Friendster (the pre-MySpace, pre-Facebook social network), social networking finally made its grand debut in the AP Stylebook alongside podcast and text messaging (the word texting would follow in 2009).

While the AP can be slow to update their terminology, they’re embracing digital platforms to reach nerdy grammarians around the world. The once print-only AP Stylebook is now online and has apps, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and (not to be outdone by Steve Jobs) its own Twitter satirist. Most importantly, it’s one of the few places on the Web where you can actually find proper grammar. w00t!

Here are a few pointers to help you feel superior at dinner parties when Web grammar comes up (as it so often does at dinner parties), courtesy of everyone’s favorite stylebook.

Internet: Capitalized all the time. Unfortunately. Let’s all cross our fingers for an update in 2012.

website: One word, lowercase. This update (a welcome change from the cumbersome Web site) was similar in magnitude to email’s hyphen drop.

Web: Capitalized all the time. Apparently Web (and likewise World Wide Web) is a proper noun.

webcam: One word, lowercase. Just in case you weren’t confused yet.

Web page: Two words. Web is capitalized, but not page. Same goes for Web feed. Is your mind blown yet? Do you feel new respect for copyeditors, resentment toward the AP? Just you wait.

webmaster: One word, lowercase. Ok, that sort of makes sense. Like webcam. Think you’ve got it now?

Web-based: Not web based, web-based, or Web based. Boom! That was the sound of your head exploding.

Should URLs be uppercase or lowercase? Keep ‘em on the down low, such as http://studiobanks.com.

Wi-Fi: Not WiFi, wifi or Wi-fi.

online: Not on-line or On-line.

log in/login: Use login as a noun and log in as a verb. Same goes for log on/logon.

Still hyphenated even after all these years:


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