Written by Erika Scopino
As a writer and editor, it’s my job to know all the rules of the written word. Unfortunately for me (and my sanity), the rules are always changing. One the most wearisome battles I face on a regular basis concerns the World Wide Web. The dilemma? Nope, not citation. Try capitalization.
Internet, when referring specifically to the World Wide Web, is a proper noun. Therefore, it’s often capitalized. Recently, however – and feel free to interpret this in a variety of ways – the Internet has become increasingly less proper. The question is now being raised as to whether the Internet is truly one specific place or a collection of separate entities – and the answer determines whether to raise that first letter to uppercase.
Publications like The New York Times and Time capitalize “Internet.” Communications of the ACM and the Associated Press also use “Internet” and even the American Psychological Association recommends capitalization in its electronic media spelling guide. The editors of The Chicago Manual of Style agree that since the Internet is one big specific network that people visit, we should capitalize.
If only it were that easy.
Several publications around the world, including The Economist, The Times and the Guardian have started using “internet.” In 2010, CNN changed its house style to adopt the lowercase spelling.
Sick of Internet/internet? No worries, we can always talk Web/web!
The Web consists of many different websites, so “website” is typically not capitalized. Using this logic, other descriptive compound words that include “web,” like “webcam,” “webmaster,” and “webinar” are lowercase as well.
But don’t get too comfortable. There’s still the issue of using “Web” on its own. “Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty explains:
The World Wide Web is made up of all the files that are accessible on the Internet by using the HTTP protocol. It is not the same thing as the Internet. The Yahoo Style Guide and the Associated Press recommend capitalizing “Web” when it stands alone, but in the new 16th edition update, the Chicago Manual of Style editors changed their minds and started allowing “web” to be lowercase.
Want to start investigating the matter for yourself? Simply Google* the latest rules about capitalizing words like Internet or Web – just be sure to clear your schedule.
*In case you were getting bored, here’s a verb everyone argues about capitalizing!