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Style Alert: Internet And Web to be Set in Lowercase

In its tradition of announcing major alterations to the AP Stylebook in the annual meetings of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), the Associated Press (AP) made yet another radical change: starting on June 1, writers who adhere to AP Style should no longer capitalize internet and web.

Associated Press

The attendees of the meeting, which was held this year in Portland, Oregon, were generally unhappy with the announcement.

In 2015, Adam Nathaniel Peck, an associate editor at the New Republic, wrote an article that discussed why people should stop capitalizing the word Internet. Peck reasons, “The word’s origins date back to the 1970s, when an ‘inter-network’ was just a collection of smaller networks that communicated using the same protocols. Functionally, the internet of today is just the largest example of an internet—which, incidentally, means that the word entered our vocabulary in lowercase.”

Susan Herring, a linguist at Indiana University, supports this. In an article she wrote for Wired, she said, “The fact is, decapitalizing internet is part of a universal linguistic tendency to reduce the amount of effort required to produce and process commonly-used words. Not only does decapitalization save a click of the shift key, but, as one marketing website put it, ‘Capital letters are speed bumps for the eyes when reading. They should be eliminated where possible.’”

Major news outlets, such as the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times all capitalize the word. However, since the AP Stylebook is often regarded as the journalist’s sacred book and arbiter of style, these outlets and other publications will more than likely adhere to the changes made.

Other style guides have not made known if they are going to follow in the AP’s footsteps. It might seem far off, though; the AP changed e-mail to email back in 2011, and The Chicago Manual of Style and other style guides have yet to follow suit.

When the AP announced on Twitter that the changes will be seen on the 2016 edition of their stylebook, it was met with criticisms.


Another one said, “There is and can be only one Internet. Lesser interoperable networks are individually ‘an internet.’ Embarrassing.”

Yet another one straight up told AP, “Bad call, folks - ask any network engineer the difference between “an internet” and “the Internet.””

Here enters the issue of whether the Internet is a generic term, such as “television” or “refrigerator,” and thus no longer requires the capitalization privilege it has enjoyed for decades.

Despite its detractors, however, the AP has made up its mind, and it will be changing its rules. With its influence over the American press, an influence which is larger than that of any other journalistic body, these changes will be heeded for the standardization of mass communication.

Anyway, no matter which side of the fence people are on regarding the matter, they will still surely use the same Internet as their ranting platform.

Do you have any burning questions? The 1-Hour Proofreading team will be happy to answer them.


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