'Hyphens Equal Disrespect' Petition: Countering the Counterarguments

My MediaPost article last week on why it’s time to spell “email” without the hyphen created a huge surge of support for our Hyphens Equal Disrespect petition—and also prompted some interesting and amusing counterarguments.

More than 100 people, representing companies both large and small, signed the petition, signaling that they would spell the word sans hyphen in their emails, press releases, whitepapers and other publications. If you’d like to add your name to the list of supporters, just click here, let us know your name and the company you represent, and we’ll add your name (but not your email address) to the petition. As the number of signees grows, the EEC will use this list to convince publishers to change their spelling of the word.

In the article I argued that spelling “email” without the hyphen was not only easier and shorter, but more accurately reflected what email is today by severing its association with old fashioned mail. In response, one commenter accused the anti-hyphen crowd of being lazy—which is a great point. People are totally lazy. They crave shortcuts and simplicity. It’s one of the key drivers—if not THE key driver—behind language evolution. So that’s yet another reason to cast off the hyphen.

Another hyphenista said that without the hyphen “the first syllable begs to be pronounced as a schwa (‘uh-mail’) instead of an accented ‘e.'” The English language is full of rule breakers, silent letters and other quirks that sometimes trip people up, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone mispronounce the word as “uh-mail”—or for that matter “em-ail.” People are already extremely familiar with this sans hyphen spelling (as I’ll prove in a minute).

This same person said: “Thankfully, ‘e-mail’ remains the correct spelling for no less an authority than The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, The American Heritage College Dictionary, and Webster’s New World College Dictionary, among others. It’s also endorsed by such language experts as William Safire, Bill Walsh, John McIntyre and Barbara Wallraff. Shall I go on?” Sure, but it would be totally pointless. Language is not governed by autocratic “authorities” like these. It’s created by the masses. Language evolution is democratic.

Roger Harris, of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, wrote in to cast his vote for democracy, saying that he supports the principle of common usage. He then decided to hold his own little election, “e-mail” versus “email,” to see which spelling was more common. “Perhaps not coincidentally,” he said, “we have a useful tool to determine such usage: search engines.” The result from Google? Hyphenistas 1.96 billion. Anti-hyphenistas 2.01 billion.

“It seems the tide has turned,” said Harris, “and, in support Chad’s proposition, ’email’ should become the preferred, and correct, usage.”

I polled Yahoo and MSN today and found even more conclusive support: Yahoo preferred “email” 3.19 billion to 1.95 billion, while MSN preferred “email” 580 million to 170 million.

So there’s already been a silent uprising in support of “email.” Help us make a little noise and convince the “authorities” that hyphens are so 1990s by signing our petition.

—Chad White

4 thoughts on “'Hyphens Equal Disrespect' Petition: Countering the Counterarguments

  1. I agree. Email should be spelled as one word, no hyphen. Here’s a another question, is it "login" or "log in" when using the word(s) as a call to action. Much debate about that at my company.

  2. What do you think of "e-marketing," "eMarketing," or "emarketing" for "electronic marketing?" The latter looks like it would fit your tastes, but doesn’t it look a bit funny?

  3. I certainly don’t want to muddy the waters with debates about the preferred spelling of other words but…I think following the common usage principle makes sense pretty much across the board. So, Andy, if you Google "log in" and "login," you’ll see that "login" is by far more common. And, Jeff, if you do the same for "e-marketing" and "emarketing"/"eMarketing" (Google doesn’t distinguish between upper and lower case), then you see that the later is preferred. I think that’s a very consistent way to determine if a certain spelling is more common than another and thus the preferred.

  4. Agreed! I love these debates. I’m on board that "email" is right. And that log in and login are different parts of speech and both should be used as appropriate. I’m curious about "emarketing" still; it’s in my title. When capitalized do you think it should be "Emarketing?" That looks sort of funny too. I currently use "E-Marketing."

Comments are closed.