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E-mail or Email? Which is Right?

In the modern age of business, sending and receiving e-mails is a common occurrence. Because of the ever-changing nature of the internet, emails have had many names, such as email, e-mail, and electronic mail.

Which is correct? Is there a time when you should use one over another? 

Today, we will take a look at the correct usage for these various names and when to use them in your writing! 

Proper use of E-mail

E-mail can be used as a noun or a verb.

When used as a noun, it stands for electronic mail and describes digital messages sent electronically. For example,

  • Jody sent Rupert an e-mail about the event.
  • Sara drafted an e-mail and will send it later.

When used as a verb, e-mail refers to sending an electronic message. For example,

  • She e-mailed her boss, but he didn’t respond.
  • The assignment was e-mailed on Tuesday.

Most popular style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook (APA) agree that using the hyphenated e-mail is preferred. Regardless of whether you use email or e-mail, your recipients are likely to understand the message.

Graphic illustrating the difference between "email" and "e-mail". Both are correct and widely used, however, the hyphenated version is more common.

Why Use E- to Describe Things? 

As mentioned, using “e-” with e-mail is a way to shorten the word “electronic”. Many other internet-related things have received similar abbreviated names, such as e-learning or e-schooling. 

E-mail is a special type of word, known as a compound noun. The single letter “e” almost acts like another word in itself, forming a compound. 

Compound words with single letters are very common in English. For instance:

  • T-shirt
  • H-bomb
  • X-Ray
  • T-bone

What is Gmail?

Gmail is a specific service offered by Google to send and receive online messages and e-mails. Although it is an email service, it isn’t technically an e-mail in itself!

Proper use of Email

Email is simply another way to spell e-mail. Both spellings are correct and widely used. However, the hyphenated version is more common than email.

These terms were coined in the 1980s but became more widely used in the 1990s.

How to Choose E-mail or Email

There isn’t a standard answer to this. E-mail was the original word and is still the more popular spelling. However, The AP Stylebook says that email is also acceptable.

Other words do require a hyphen with e. Two examples are e-commerce and e-book.


Should you use email or e-mail? E-mail and email both refer to electronic messaging, but e-mail is more common. 

In the end, you should take your recipients into account.

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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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