Got into an interesting exchange on Twitter last night about how higher ed marketing people address writing style for Internet lingo.
I found it interesting that many people whom I consider to be “cutting-edge” when it comes to social media and online communication still lean heavily on the granddaddy of style guides, The Associated Press Stylebook. Even when it comes to writing about this online world we’re so immersed in. They still capitalize “Web,” hyphenate “e-mail” and consider “Web site” two words. I forgot to ask whether they still call blogs “web logs.” How quaint would that be?
I have nothing against the AP Stylebook. In journalism school, it was holy writ. And on our campus, we’ve used AP style as the foundation for our own university style. But let’s face it. The AP Stylebook editors are a conservative lot. They’re years behind the time. And they don’t have the humor of the old UPI Stylebook editors, who inserted this witty entry amidst all the stylistic rules:
burro, burrow A burro is an ass. A burrow is a hole in the ground. As a journalist, you are expected to know the difference.
When it comes to Internet terms, I think the AP rules are not only humorless, but unnecessarily staid. Irrelevantly staid, even.
So over the past several years, we’ve veered away from the AP rules for our own in-house style when it comes to Internet terms. We’ve looked to other sources for guidance — namely, Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age, by Constance Hale and Jessie Scanlon. As a result, we changed our style way back in the early
200s 2000s to lowercase “web,” combine (and lowercase) “website” and dehyphenate “email.” I don’t think it’s that radical. As we observe in our in-house style guide:
Missouri S&T uses a combination of Wired and Associated Press styles when writing about the Internet. Because most of our audiences are Internet-savvy, we feel more comfortable embracing the less formal style of Wired as opposed to the conservative approach of the Associated Press Stylebook.
One argument against violating the sacred rules of AP may come from the media relations folks, who will claim (as I once did) that we’re writing for journalists, and journalists follow AP style. Pish posh. We’re not writing for journalists anymore. We’re writing directly to our various audiences, and more and more of them are getting their information from onlline sources.
Back in 2004, Wired decided to lowercase the “i” in “internet, a move that I just can’t bring myself to embrace. Yet.
Still, I admire Wired’s chutzpah. The Wired editors’ argument for lowercasing the i-word makes sense. “The simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words [internet, net, web]. Actually, there never was.”
They went on to poke fun at those of us who clink to our style guides like well-worn security blankets:
True believers are fond of capitalizing words, whether they be marketers or political junkies or, in this case, techies. If It’s Capitalized, It Must Be Important. In German, where all nouns are capitalized, it makes sense. It makes no sense in English. So until we become Die Wired Nachrichten, we’ll just follow customary English-language usage.
Interestingly, Wired has yet to incorporate downstyle in its headlines. (The headline to the post referenced above was, “It’s Just the ‘internet’ Now.” Note all those capitalized words. What’s up with that — other than the first letter of every word except the one that most of us would uppercase?)
Anyway, with all of Steve Jobs’ new lowercase “i” words now so prevalent — iPods, iPhones — maybe now is the time to boldly embrace the newfangled lowercase internet.
Or maybe it should be iNternet? I bet Steve Jobs would love that.