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Where Do You Stand on Lowercasing "Internet"?

Posted on Friday, April 29, 2016 at 10:05 PM

Editors weigh in on the upcoming AP Stylebook rule change.

By William Dunkerley

Starting June 1 the AP Stylebook will lowercase the word "Internet." We asked editors whether that is a good or bad idea. Here's what they said:

--"Bad. Call me old school, but Internet is still a proper noun." --Victoria Benning, Washington Post

--"I can't say whether it's good or bad, but I'm not changing my magazine's style just solely because the AP is updating theirs. We will continue to uppercase Internet." --Bradley Worrell, Editor, RV PRO magazine

--"We've been lowercasing it for years." --David Gadd, Executive Editor, The Tasting Panel Magazine

--"I think that's fine. If it's uppercase, that implies that it's a company or some official entity. If it's lowercase, it's more generic as in 'I went to the clinic.' Different from 'I went to the Brown Dental Clinic.'" --Carolyn Ulrich, Editor, Chicagoland Gardening magazine

--"I disagree that it should be lowercase; how is the Internet not a proper noun?" --Dan Cohen, Managing Editor, Defense Communities 360

--"I think lowercasing the I in Internet is a moderately poor idea. It's the name of a fairly important thing -- generally more important than, say, Greenland or Monsanto. You wouldn't lowercase them!" --C.G. Masi

--"I write tech. Everyone UCs Internet right now -- treating it like a specific place. However, it now is ubiquitous (like those 'here's-how-to-fasten-your-seatbelt' lectures on planes -- who doesn't know?!). There is no trademark or brand name involved. I think it's about time we LC'd it. So I agree with AP." --Curt Harler

--"I never understood why it was capitalized in the first place. Having to uppercase it was one of the more common corrections I've had to make to copy over the years." --Cheryl Tucker, Editorial Writer, The News Tribune

--"I liken it to the word 'highway,' a system of online travel that takes you to Google, YouTube, and all else that is a proper noun. So for me it would make sense to lowercase it." --Christina Christensen, Senior Editor, Orange Coast Magazine

--"Good idea. I've never understood the reasoning behind the capitalization. I always considered internet a generic thing." --Dave Fusaro, Editor-in-Chief, Food Processing and Wellness Foods

--"I think it's a good idea. It's a noun, but not a proper noun. As other tech terms (email, website) have switched to more organic capitalization and spelling, I think it makes sense for internet to follow suit." --Nichole Morford, Editorial Lead and Manager, Digital CoE

--"Good idea. The word has become very generic, not a proper name. I'm for the change." --Dave Foe, Director of Print and e-Publications, Michigan Dental Association

--"Internet should remain uppercase. It is a unique title for a unique network, of which, therefore, there is only one. It is not a generic reference, and it was arrived at through a consensus of computer scientists. To my knowledge, Chicago Manual of Style still specifies Internet and the Web. That is an appropriate usage." --David

--"Isn't it funny that the spelling of web addresses has made the phrase 'all one word' into alloneword -- as in 'My email address is chipps at singletrackworld (alloneword) dot com'? I don't see why it should be capitalised any more than 'switchboard' or 'marketplace. P.S. I like that lowercase is now a verb." --Chipps Chippendale, Editor, Singletrack magazine

--"We still uppercase. I've always considered one reason (of many possible) for uppercasing was the uniqueness, or at least rarity, the importance, the predominance of a thing. And there is still only one Internet. I'd have to hear the rationale for the change." --Chris Glenn, Editor-in-Chief, Review of Ophthalmology

--"I'm in favor of lowercasing the 'I' in internet. The word has moved far beyond a proper noun, and it's so ubiquitous and used in so many contexts now that treating it as a proper noun has become pointless and seems rather stuffy." --Carol Mangis

--"Good idea. The word is no longer used as a proper noun." --Angela Hartley, Managing Editor, JOGNN

--"I rather prefer Internet to be capitalized. I've long grown accustomed to thinking of it as a specific galaxy unto itself worthy of proper-name status. To lowercase Internet is to relegate it to a lowly generic realm, like the hinterlands or the shallows. Alas." --Allen J. Sheinman, Managing Editor, Meetings & Conventions magazine

--"Good idea. The fewer capitals in language and in life, the better. Seriously, though, to me capitalization suggests a brand; whereas the internet is a utility like electric, gas, etc. Also it will be consistent with lowercased web." --Andrew Simpson, Chief Content Officer, Wells Media Group

--"I was just pondering that in a sentence yesterday. For some reason lowercasing it just doesn't feel right to me, probably due to just habit. But honestly, this is one of those where I can go either way." --Andrew Kaplan, Beverage World

--"To be honest, I pay less and less attention to the stylebook these days. I have little time or patience for acknowledging AP's falling standards. It was once the gold standard. Not anymore." --Anonymity requested

So editors are fairly evenly divided on the issue.

That means AP is not entirely following current editorial practice, but is in fact leading. This is a change in strategy from the past. It was actually pretty late in switching from the archaic "Web site" to website.

In May 2003 Norman Goldstein, AP StyleBook editor, told us: "Style, in the sense we're talking about, really means a preference (in spelling or punctuation or capitalization or usage) when there is a choice to be made. AP made the choice of 'Web site' for what we thought were very good, language-based, reasons. Others are free to use their preference -- as long as it is clear to a reader and consistent. More creative writers than I have said that 'usage will push new meanings into currency no matter how many authorities hurl themselves into the path of change.'"

In the meantime, Editors Only will stick with "Internet" until we see that the lowercased practice in the field is more widespread. But I believe that each publication editor is in the best position to judge what's right for his or her own audience. Speaking in a style that best connects with your readers is perhaps the best criterion for deciding whether to change or not.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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