The Internet Has No Capital

posted in: Writing | 2

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. The AP Stylebook is about to make a change, long desired by many and resisted by others, that illustrates the mutability of standards once thought clear and hard. This watershed moment will occur on June 1, 2016, when it becomes officially correct to refer to the Internet in all lowercase letters.

For years, bloggers and the progressive-minded among us (or misguided slackers, according to those on the other side of the issue) have tried to slip references to the ‘internet’ by in our work. Depending on the level of editorial autonomy we exercised, these efforts were successful or slapped down by management with a more conservative stylistic approach.

The word ‘Internet’ has long been properly presented beginning with a capital letter, a rule enforced by respected arbiters of grammar such as the AP, the New York Times and Microsoft Word. It wasn’t always this way, though, and many writers have pushed by example and advice to drop the unnecessary, somewhat pretentious and overly old-fashioned ‘I’ in the years since. (It may not be necessary at this point to admit that I am among those who find it silly to capitalize the word.)

The argument is based on the distinction between an internet (of which there are many) and the Internet (the one where cats and hateful, illiterate comments, among other art forms, are so prevalent). Since the Internet we all surf so often for work and pleasure alike constitutes a particular location, in a manner of speaking, it is rightfully treated as a proper noun and thus merits capitalization, claims the ‘I’ camp.

Hogwash and poppycock, retort normal, right-thinking people across the world. The Earth’s sky is also a vast but singular location, yet we are not required to present it as “Sky” to my certain knowledge.

Years of usage and the gradual erosion of resistance have finally yielded acceptance by the hardest stone to move: AP’s 2016 Stylebook will declare ‘internet’ to be properly presented without initial capitalization. Hooray! Will the New York Times follow suit? No word yet, but my guess is they’ll go with the flow sooner rather than later, to avoid being further perceived as a relic of an earlier time and hopelessly out of sync with today’s dynamic content creators.

There are likely to be people on both sides of the issue at your own firm. The war is over and the debate settled: no caps. If this comes as wonderful if long overdue news to your ears, join me in rejoicing – but do try not to gloat. Be gentle with your more traditional colleagues, despite their misplaced commitment to capitalization, for I have yet another blow for them to bear: their beloved “e-mail” became a mistake over five years ago. The correct presentation is “email” as a single word.

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Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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2 Responses

  1. Kathy Brents
    | Reply

    I’m big on writing in proper case. I’ve always capitalized Internet as it is the right thing to do (according to who?) but I’ve always wondered why. Well, now I know. And it saves an extra stroke of the ‘pinkie’ finger to the ‘Shift’ key on the keyboard anyway. We’ll see who tries to correct me after June 1 and I can throw this article at them!

    • Sarah
      | Reply

      Exactly, Kathy! I’m eagerly anticipating that day. The end is near!

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