GrammarBlog

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

I don't want e-mail anymore

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SPOGG is reporting on the associated press' standpoint on the hyphen in 'e-mail'.

David Minthorn, spokesman for the AP stylebook has the following to say on the matter:

Call us stubborn, or sticklers for clarity, but AP sees no compelling reason to replace e-mail with email.
Why do we stand on e-mail? That spelling is the first choice of major dictionaries, including AP's primary spelling reference, Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition. It is also the preference of many newspapers. And e-mail is consistent with other hyphenated, electronic age terms such as e-book, e-commerce, e-shopping and e-business (which would look odd without hyphens).
You're not the first to propose dropping the hyphen. But the arguments of one fewer keystroke and search engine statistics don't convince us that e-mail would be enhanced by excision.

I disagree. I think 'email' does and should take preference over its hyphenated alter ego. What does the hyphen add? 'Email' looks better, reads better and is less cluttered.

As Churchill once said:

One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible. My feeling is that you may run [words] together or leave them apart, except when Nature revolts.

Quite right, Winston.

We've covered this before of course, when the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary dropped a gazillion hyphens from its new edition last October. I don't think I can be persuaded that a hyphen is needed in this case.

What do you lot think?

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9 Comments:
Blogger Bill said...

I agree the hyphen should be dropped. Of e-book, e-commerce, e-shopping and e-business, I only see e-commerce in wide usage. The argument for consistency is a weak one.

19 February 2008 at 20:03  
Blogger Grant Barrett said...

Martha, it wasn't Oxford English Dictionary that dropped so many hyphens, it was the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. They are different books with different editorial policies, different editorial teams, different update cycles, and divergent content.

19 February 2008 at 20:10  
Blogger Grant Barrett said...

Oops. I'm not on the SPOGG site. I don't know what I was thinking with the "Martha."

19 February 2008 at 20:11  
Blogger Gez said...

Wrong site; correct observation.

19 February 2008 at 20:33  
OpenID pauldwaite said...

I was strongly against “email” for a long time, because I didn’t think there was any precedent in English for pronouncing it “eeemail” instead of “emmail”. Then I remembered “emu”, and I’m sure there are others.

I personally prefer “e-mail”, but I don’t bristle at “email”. I think Strunk and White notes that many words that have been joined with hyphens have ended up merged.

19 February 2008 at 22:09  
Blogger JD said...

House style on the magazine I work for is 'e-mail', but my own personal preference is 'email'. This leaves me terminally confused and no doubt somewhat inconsistent.

20 February 2008 at 14:19  
Anonymous rpmason said...

AP says that e-mail "...is also the preference of many newspapers." Isn't that rather circular logic? Many newspapers use the AP Stylebook as their primary style guide.

20 February 2008 at 14:32  
Blogger Autumn said...

I like "email." I think the word has been used enough to qualify for promotion to the non-hyphen category--it's easily recognizable without the hyphen, and I don't think it loses any clarity.

But the trouble begins when people see "email" and think those pesky hyphens are finally a thing of the past, and start jamming all sorts of words together willy-nilly. Or willynilly, as it were.

21 February 2008 at 16:32  
Anonymous mighty red pen said...

I lost this argument when revising the styleguide at my job and we stuck with e-mail (but did change from Web site to website).

For what it's worth, Bill Walsh asserts in "Lapsing into a Comma" that "No initial-based term in the history of the English language has ever evolved to form a solid word--a few are split and the rest are hyphenated" eg: A-frame, B-movie, H-bomb, K car, X-ray and so on.

22 February 2008 at 20:04  

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