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The Latest Word on the Word “Email”

If you have been holding back on using the word email, without a hyphen, in your business writing, waiting for a style manual to firmly support your choice, The Associated Press (AP) has finally acted.

On March 18, AP announced the change in style from e-mail to email. The change will appear in the next edition of The AP Stylebook, but AP is using email already in its news stories. For example, see the story "Email to Wis. gov. initially favored union rights," in which email appears as a noun (email and emails) and as a verb.

I have been using the unhyphenated version for years, and I am delighted that a style manual has finally come out unequivocally in its favor.

If you like to compare the views of experts, here is the latest word from respected resources:

Gregg Reference Manual, 11th Edition (2011), does not offer a firm opinion. It states, "The original form. . . E-mail–is now primarily spelled as e-mail but is increasingly appearing as email." 

Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition (2009), surveys current usage but appears to prefer e-mail: "The unhyphenated email is unsightly, but it might prevail in the end. In print sources, e-mail is five times as common as email. Ultimately, the hyphen may well disappear."

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition (2010), unfortunately lists only e-mail, as does Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (2009).   

The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th Edition (2010), offers three variants, all equally acceptable in its editors' eyes: e-mail, email, and E-mail.

If you have been waiting to change your business writing style to email, this is your moment! Just go through all your documents and globally replace e-mail with email. Then set your software to automatically correct any future uses of the hyphenated version. When your editor or supervisor questions the change, just cite the Associated Press.

Are you emailing yet?

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “The Latest Word on the Word “Email””

  • I knew this day would happen, but I’m still disappointed.

    If “email” is now correct, should we also now use “abomb,” “gstring,” and the like? My professors from jschool would be so upset!

  • I also have been using the unhyphenated version for a long time, mostly because it’s easier to type. Since it’s such a commonly used word it makes sense to keep it simple. I don’t often type “g-string” so the hyphen in that doesn’t bother me.

  • Hi Lynn. In my opinion, it should be G-string, A-bomb, J-school. I can buy “e-mail” instead of “E-mail” because the IT industry uses lower-case “e” as a universal abbreviation for “electronic.” “E-mail,” after all, is short for “electronic mail.”

    The IT industry, loaded with ignorant 20-somethings and marketing writers who are desperate to appear hip, tends to favor cutesy spelling, capitalization and punctuation – eBay, PowerPoint,

    To be sure, the IT industry’s idiosyncratic nomenclature will change English, but unless we all want to start writing the way today’s teenagers text, I believe we should push back.

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