http://shadconnelly.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Should-you-capitalize-the-word-internet-3.jpgIt’s Time to Stop Capitalizing the Words “Web” and “Internet”

It’s Time to Stop Capitalizing the Words “Web” and “Internet”

Like many journalists and copywriters out there, I have capitalized the words “web” and “internet” for years. In fact, typing them just now without the capitalization was weird. My left index finger was drawn to the shift button as I hit the “w” and “i” like a moth to a flame.

Capitalizing these words always seemed a little odd and unnecessary to me, but I made the conscious choice to do it for a few reasons:

1. The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook suggested it. And the AP Stylebook is a guide I’ve referenced dating back to journalism class in college and through several of the corporate copywriting jobs I’ve had. This a commonly used “bible” of writing style.

2. The New York Times, which I often use as a reference point when I’m on the fence about writing style issues like what words should be capitalized, also used “Internet” with a capital “I” (though they kept “web” in lowercase).

3. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, consistency is more important than “right” when it comes to copywriting. So I just made a choice and stuck with it.

But times have changed…

Recently, the capitalizations of “Internet” and “Web” have come crashing down. First, it was the AP Stylebook which announced in an April tweet that they would stop the capitalizations with the release of the 2016 Stylebook (the guide gets updated annually) on June 1.

Then, at the end of May, The New York Times posted this bulletin accompanied by this image:

NY Times Article Screenshot

That’s right, The Times also dropped the “i” in “internet” down to its lowercase counterpart. The bang-bang of these two actions told me everything I need to know…

We can now stop capitalizing “internet” and “web” across mediums.

In my mind, this is pretty good news. Especially in the business world, where people have fallen in love with unnecessary capitalization. The culture has become one of overcapitalization, which I’m not a big fan of for the simple reason if you call attention to everything, you call attention to nothing.

So I’m jazzed to have a couple less capitalizations to deal with. And, honestly, this just make sense with common usage. If a friend is emailing you, it’s very rare they will capitalize “internet” or “web”. Thomas Kent, The A.P.’s standards editor, also notes that the shift to the lowercase version of “internet” is somewhat generational.

Kent is quoted in The New York Times piece referenced above, saying:

“Some people feel sort of physically deep in their soul that it’s a proper noun. They would compare it to a physical place with a proper name. But I just don’t think most people see it that way anymore. For younger people, it’s always been there; it’s like water.”

If you find this topic interesting and want to read more about the linguistic debate over the capitalization of “internet” that’s been brewing for more than a decade, check out this great post from Alyssa Bereznak over at The Ringer (which is, by the way, my new favorite website).

Shad Connelly

I'm a Pittsburgh freelance copywriter and communications consultant. I develop online marketing content to define your business and strengthen your brand. Reach me at info@shadconnelly.com.