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Is it E-mail or Email?

Categories: Grammar, Questions & Quandaries Blog, What's New Tags: questions and quandaries, style.

Q: Everywhere I turn I see “email” (or is it “e-mail”?) punctuated differently. Can you tell me which is correct? —Kate T.

I have an answer but I’m not so sure it’ll be as satisfying as you’d hoped: Punctuating “e-mail” with or without a hyphen is completely a style choice and varies from publication to publication. For years, The Associated Press Stylebook recommended using “e-mail,” but early in 2011 it changed course and now claims “email” is the way to go. Why? According to its Ask the Editors page, the AP’s acceptance of “e-mail” without the hyphen “reflects the reality of usage.” In other words, more people are writing it without the hyphen, and AP is just adapting to the times.

Now, just because the AP has made the switch doesn’t mean everyone has. The New York Times still spells it “e-mail.” In fact, Writer’s Digest does, too. Maybe one day we’ll switch; maybe we won’t. But unless a higher authority (I’m looking at you, Merriam-Webster) declares one way or the other to be the only correct form, we don’t have to. Neither do you. Like most style choices, the only thing you must do is stay consistent. Having it spelled both ways in an article or story looks sloppy and unprofessional.

 

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5 Responses to Is it E-mail or Email?

  1. CathySp says:

    John, I work for a newspaper and only recently discovered the e-mail/email change, when editor pointed it out to me and I tried to defend “e-mail” with an outdated stylebook.’

    My take is do what ever the editor wants, even if it’s eeeeeeeee-mail.

  2. fairchdr says:

    I have been in the computer industry since before internet and home computers. I watched the evolution of the e-mail system from back in the 1970′s. An interesting cultural fact was that all programmers at the time (even today) would have to create names for objects in programming that had to have all letters or numbers in the name, and hyphens were used heavily to separate two or more concepts. No spaces or special characters were allowed in a naming sequence. So it seems logical (sorry Mr. Spock) that an electronic computerized mail system would be called e-mail and not “e mail”, and “email” fits the constructs, but doesn’t satisfy the separation of two concepts…. But that is my two-cents-worth…. Smile….

  3. RosebudMarie57 says:

    In one of my stories, my main character is a completely computer-illiterate man. For him, it’s ‘E-mail’ since it sort of accents the clumsiness he feels while using it. For a different character it might be spelled ‘Email’.

  4. John Matthews says:

    Would somebody tell me why this matters?

  5. ArtistWriterEditor says:

    I’m going to be one of those sticklers. It should always be e-mail since it is originally electronic mail. The hyphen always needs to be there.

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