E-mail is dead. Long live email.


image (c) Getty ImagesThough it may not always be apparent from my occasionally incoherent ravings on this blog, I am an English major.

And like many English majors, I tend to be a bit of (a) stickler when it comes to the evolution of our language. I wrinkle my nose at terms like “mixtape”, “staycation” and “frenemy.” I resent it when people use words that have had long-held meanings in a new context e.g. “voluptuous” now means “overweight” in certain circles.

And for a very long time I insisted that it was “e-mail”, not “email.” We even debated the word here in the office with most of the twenty-somethings doing a very poor job of hiding their amusement that us¬†we old-timers could cling so firmly to our precious hyphen.

For years however, I had the power of the press behind me. Every traditional publication at least, was consistently using “e-mail” so I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it.

Today however, the hook that I had been hanging my e-mail hat on, was unexpectedly taken away in the form – of all things – a tweet.

Not just any tweet. An official tweet from the folks who run the AP Style Book twitter account, in which they said:

Language evolves. Today we change AP style from e-mail to email, no hyphen.There we have it. Not that the Associated Press is necessarily the last word on spelling, but if they have now moved to a world of hyphen-less emails, it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way into more official records such as the Oxford English Dictionary.

So long e-mail. We had a good ride, but I think our time to part ways has come. I’ll miss you old friend. I’ll always remember with great fondness the time you entered my life and all of the promise and excitement that you brought with you. I will especially miss your hyphen. It suited you.

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70 comments

  1. Frank Morrison

    I am not a fan of abbreviations for the sake of abbreviating. (I.E. BTW)But this one makes sense. When was the last time you said “telecopier” instead of “fax”?

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      • Lin

        You’re correct. The telecopier, if I remember was actually replaced by the fax in my office (waaay back when I first started working).

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      • Dianne

        What is a ‘telecopier’? I am 69 and when I was 17 I had a summer job with NB Tel&Tel (that’s what it was called waaaaay back then) as a typist on a teletype, and believe me, one HAD to be a good speller as well as an excellent typist, as what you typed went onto a stockticker-type tape and you could not read what you typed, so you just prayed that what you typed was correct, and once the typing was completed, you pressed the ‘send’ button and prayed again! My goodness, how times have changed!!!

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    • Rob

      Actually tho we do not say it that way, properly a telecopier was replaced by a faxmachine. A fax is the paper that come out of the machine.

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      • Terry

        Although “Faxmachine” would legitimize the abbreviation “Fax”, there is no such word. It is, as stated above, a “facsimile” machine. Fax is the inevitable short form of a word that we of the techno-generation (oops, hyphen) are apt to do because big words are hard to remember and are even harder to text……geez.

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  2. Paul

    Wow! Can’t wait till Internet becomes internet. Of course if we wait long enough, it’ll just be Net. Or Web. Or maybe Wb (I hate twitter. Or is it Twitter?).

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      • Edith

        I think the comment was about, “a bit of stickler” which is obviously an editing error. We know you meant, “a bit of A stickler”…

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      • Simon Cohen

        Wow. You know I must have looked at David’s comment 5 times before replying and I *still* didn’t see the mistake. Looks like I need glasses. Or an editor. Or both. :)
        Sorry David, and thanks Edith.

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      • Michael

        I was surprised to note that an English major would use an accusative where clearly the nominative is correct. I quote ” that US old timers would cling etc. I’m sure that on reflection you will agree that US is the subject of the verb CLING, and therefore the pronoun WE should have been used. I don’t think US can be accepted as a colloquialism, do you?

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      • Simon Cohen

        Hmm I see your point. You are of course absolutely right. I suppose I’ve heard, or at least I think I’ve heard it used this way so often it now feels okay to me. But no excuses here… fixed! (with thanks!)

        You know, I had a bad feeling that starting this post by declaring my university degree, it would put the rest of the text under a microscope ;-) But I’m glad I did. My English is far from perfect and I always welcome corrections from readers.

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      • Sam I am

        It is so easy to use grammar in a way in which we have heard it used many times. So many people are not critical of how they use the English language and it sometimes is like nails on a chalkboard listening to people speak. It appears that grammar is not a priority in school anymore and with texting, etc. it has definitely gone by the wayside. It’s a shame.

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  3. Verbally Nouned

    It is not so much the evolution of nouns that annoys me as the loss of basic grammar skills among the younger set that has begun to make modern speech and writing SO grating to the eyes and ears. If I hear one more company proclaim something like “our product has less calories!” (rather than FEWER calories, which would be actual English) I swear I’m going to scream. The loss of adverbs (e.g. “she’s running real fast” rather than “running really quickly”) is also maddening, and is dragging us closer and closer to a kind of coarse, American English that dumbs us down and impoverishes the English language.

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    • David Poissant

      Don’t you love those commercials that proclaim “three times less costly”, or some similar claim; instead of one-third the cost.

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    • skypilot1974

      YES! YES! YES! Spelling, grammar, and lame descriptive words and
      adjectives, which spell “BORING!” Equally disturbing is,
      what happened to the teachings of Phonics, whereby a difficult
      looking word can be “sounded out”, thereby enabling the reader to
      properly read and pronounce new words?

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    • Dianne

      FINALLY!!!! Someone who noticed the same thing that I have been noticing the past few months, which is – the proper context in which ‘few’ or ‘fewer’ is used vs ‘less’ or ‘lesser’. I do not have a university degree but English grammar was one of my best subjects all through my school years, especially during high school. It irks me no end when I see that advertisement mentioned on tv but … I have also seen much the same thing in newspaper articles which were written by supposed ‘experts’ who get paid big bucks to write columns for dailies. Once can say ‘fewer’ in some instances or ‘lesser’ (as in the lesser of two evils).
      I often wonder not simply WHAT they are teaching students today but HOW they are teaching, especially English grammar.
      I am 69 yrs old and when I see public ads that incorrectly use the words ‘few(er)’ and ‘less(er)’ I shake my head and wonder what type of phrase wrongly misused I will see next. Texting has made the students of today somewhat lazy so it’s no wonder half cannot spell even the simplest word. We may be in a new era what with all the electronic gadgets available today for texting, emailing, etc (hey, I own a pc), it has only made people lazier. FIRST you learn how to spell words correctly, THEN you can abbreviate for texting. But dollars to donuts those who constantly text are very poor spellers!
      My 2 cents worth!

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    • Sam I am

      I agree! “It’s some irritating!” It’s out of control and unless grammar becomes a subject again in the classroom as it was when I went to school, it will only get worse.

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  4. Roger

    I am tired of the English language being destroyed little by little by people who are too lazy to use it properly. Every day I see the words “to” and “too” being mis-used. There, they’re and their. Where, wear, ware and were and we’re are other examples of people either not knowing the differences of these words or not caring.
    An “e-mail” is akin to a written letter and abbreviations such as “btw” “ffs” and “lol” don’t belong.

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    • taikendive

      As an ESL teacher(conversation, not spelling) I’ve learned tht english is one of the most complex languages to learn and teach. the only constent I’ve found is that 1 IS and 2 ARE. i before e except after c and sometimes after y are not. 2 short vowels dont always make a long one. add confusion to it and put 3 vowels together. english has something like 50,000 words, chinese 10,000+/-, other languages i would think tend to be this way also. I do think that if one is sending an email that using long hand is more apropriet(sp), but for texting it’s almost a must to make it short hand. that being said, I do think tht most english speaking people sound like 6 yr olds in how bad their grammer is.

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      • Magarac

        “I do think tht most english speaking people sound like 6 yr olds in how bad their grammer is”…

        Good Lord, are you kidding me? And you’re an ESL teacher?!! No wonder our newcomers speak as poorly as they do! “People” is in the plural, the name of a language should be capitalized, “bad” is an adjective not an adverb, numerical digits should never be used in written sentences, &c.

        How about the proper form, as follows: “I do think that most English-speaking people sound like six year-olds insofar as their knowledge and use of English grammar”.

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  5. Ruined english

    There’s goes the english language!!! Pretty sad when people have to use shortened words to text or email. Things like BRB or LMAO etc make me think that people are getting lazier. Also when I read crap like that it also makes me think that people just can’t spell. In the end it looks like the general public will end up being stupid and lazy.

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  6. Steve

    I join those who are mourning the slow death of proper English. At the rate we’re going, our conversations are going to sound like the kind of gibberish you might hear from a room full of chimpanzees hopped-up on high powered speed.

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  7. Gordon Russell

    I trulyregret the demise of the English language and one word Irefuse to use is “texting”, instead I always say or write “sending a text message.

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  8. Mick

    Please tell me that you’re being intentionally dense. That kind of stupidity is exactly the kind of phenomenon that is killing our language.

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  9. OhObviously!

    It stands to reason that, since society is devolving in it’s ethics and intelligence, language will also devolve with it. I’m betting that we will end up with a written language similar to ancient times where simple pictures will replace words entirely. And I’m pretty sure we will also end up grunting at each other rather than use eloquent speech to express our ideas and opinions.

    Can you say CAVEMAN?

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  10. Des

    The art of talking is also long gone >I was sitting in a coffee bar listening to 3 young ladies talking every thing is ,OH My God,And they talked so fast and spelled out some words in short form ,I just grinned and said Wow the English language is GONE

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  11. humanimal

    What irritates me most of all is someone(s) thinking they can decide these things for everyone else. Who decides who gets to decide?? I’ll write it as I choose, thank you very much.

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    • Edith

      Nope. If you write it as you choose, & I write it as I choose, and everybody writes it as they choose, no one will understand anyone else. The purpose of language, written or spoken, is communication. When you’ve lost that, you’ve lost the purpose.

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  12. maria

    As long as we communicate that’s all that seems to matter.
    Mediocrity is the name of the game and, sadly,
    grammar and diction are a thing of the past.

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  13. ytania

    Language has been evolving since it’s first usage. Socrates was disdainful of written language. He believed that words outside of their original context (ie the intention of the person using them, and the way a listener might hear them) can mean anything, and thus nothing at all. Users of the English language are going to freak out every time someone tries to change it to suit themselves and their needs. Nothing new here. Nothing has changed in the bigger picture: some people will strive to use proper English and others will use their own version.

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  14. 10RI

    Ohmaigosh! The language is changing! As far as your precious hyphen goes, so what? Unless you are that worried about the ‘hip kids’ thinking you’re outmoded, then just use your hyphen if you want to. If someone gives you grief for it, then at least you have found someone with the same amount of passion for the language as you have even if they are on the other side of the fence.

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  15. Dave A

    Whats the big deal about the english language thing. We have so many immigrants coming here that there is no way that the ol’ english will last anyway. Besides how can one be expected to use (what some may say is the “proper” way to say things) proper english when the language itself is so ridiculous. In what other language can you say things like “the building burned up—or—the building burned down” and it means the same thing. As long as we can be understood by the person/persons we are talking to then how the language is used should not matter a dam (damn)

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  16. Pete

    My favourite is the annoying misuse of the word ‘were’, using it all too often when the word ‘was’ should be used. Were doesn’t belong alongside the words ‘I’, ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘it’.

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  17. Ian

    Well I hope the world does not come to an end for all those that liked the hyphen in email. It is about time we all became a bit more flexible I think.

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  18. Ross

    Welcome to the birth and evolution of e-language.

    Way back in the initial days of ICQ, people had to find ways to condense the written language to faciliate communication in real-time. What do you purists expect, protracted editing? It slopped over to e-mail. Big surprise?

    From my generation:

    “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone; ’cause the times they are a changin’.”

    Bob Dylan.

    Anyone remember?

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  19. Billy

    Definition of “Simple Simon” you got nothing better to do. Get a Life. Go out for a beer. Just…. just go out.

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    • Bully

      I love it when people tell writers to get a life.
      Simon: A guy who gets paid to write
      Billy: A guy who spends his free time making lame comments on stories.
      I think I know who really needs to get a life.

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  20. Gary Dobbin

    Yanno… it’s time to get over the uses of the English language. It’s been changing since it was first used and it will keep evolving. Just look back to your school days when you had to study Shakespeare. His use of the language is alot different than ours. Can anyone say that it’s wrong? I’m sure that some educated person of his era (likely a priest) would be railing against some words and phrases he used. Some day a word like the one I used to open this narrative could be accepted and commonplace.

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  21. Chad

    I may be mistaken but I thought there was a rule that when a vowel is followed by a consonant the vowel is pronounced as a short vowal (a instead of ‘eh’). Like advantage, energy,undone, idiot you get the idea…. If that is the case then email would be pronounced as ‘ehmail’ not ‘eemail’. Of course like in any language there are exceptions but do we need more exceptions?
    What really gets me is watching American English creep into Canadian English. Humor instead of humour, color not colour, honor not honour. When I pointed this out to a journalist in ‘Coffee Talk’ on a Sympatico page I was called a fool and an idiot and censored by the journalist and or Sympatico. Canadian English is being challeneged by Americans and even French Canadians (spend some time in northern Ontario and listen to the English used by the locals). The federal government spends millions of dollars to promote the French language and culture in our country maybe it is time they spent the same to preserve Canadian English and culture. Americans have their language and culture and so do we…

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  22. Bud Dacres

    Since we’ve been discussing pronounciations of words, could someone PLEASE, oh, please, tell me why so many of our American and, yes, Canadian friends too, pronounce the word nuclear ‘nucular’ or ‘nuculear’? I mean, it’s really not such a terribly hard word to prononuce, is it? NU CLEAR..there ya go…

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  23. Fred McClimans

    Excellent post. I think the “-” was doomed the day that eBay was born. Just last year we had a great debate on Internet vs internet vs web (not to mention the one arguing website vs site).

    Nicely done.

    Fred

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