Q&A: Internet terms explained

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, we're asking wwwhat's the preferred style for writing web terms these days…

Q: Hi AWC, I have a technical question.
A: Is it how to remove your browser history?
Q: Haha, no nothing like that. And anyway, everyone knows that browsers don't keep records of what you search for.
A: Ummm.
Q: My question is about what I like to call “the interwebs”.
A: What about it?
Q: Well, it's only existed for about 20 years, but in that time it seems the terms have changed or been shortened etc. What's the preferred style for writing web terms these days?
A: That's a good question. Let's begin with “web” and “internet”. They once needed a capital letter, but these days, lower case is the way to go in most cases.
Q: Any exceptions?
A: Some style guides still prefer you to use a capital letter if referring to it as a noun – Internet and Web. But we suggest lower case for everything, including “online” (one word).
Q: And the world wide web? Lower case too?
A: No actually. Because this is linked to “www”, it should be World Wide Web. However, “website” (one word) and other web-related terms are lower case.
Q: And for websites, do you still need to write them with the www in front?
A: It depends on the context, but seeing as most sites will launch without the www, it's usually fine to write something like writerscentre.com.au. Much like the “http://” at the beginning, most just assume it's there.
Q: Do we still use the term “URL”?
A: Only if it's a more technical document. In writing, most replace this simply with “internet address” these days.
Q: And does anyone just call it “the net/Net” anymore?
A: Not since that terrible 1994 film with Sandra Bullock.
Q: Alright, so what about “email”? Or is it “e-mail”? Or “Email”? Or “E-mail”?
A: Haha, four options there. When it was first introduced back in the dark ages known as the 1990s, it was generally known as “E-mail”.
Q: Was this because of the Australian soap, E Street?
A: It had absolutely nothing to do with that, or Bruce Springsteen's band of the same name. It's really because “E” was a new concept – and it helped signal that it was “electronic mail”.
Q: But has this changed over time?
A: Yes. These days, it's generally lost both its capital letter AND hyphen, typically written as simply “email”. You could say the novelty has well and truly worn off.
Q: So I would delete “emails” off a private government server, not “e-mails”?
A: Too soon.
Q: Haha.
A: Some style guides may use “e-mail”, but most publication styles have it as one word. In this age of social media and messaging, shorter is better.
Q: So is that the same for other “e” things?
A: Yes, we would recommend writing “ecommerce” and “ebook” – although you may still see them with hyphens (if you do use hyphens, be consistent!).
Q: And with acronyms, do they stay as all caps?
A: Yeah, we'd recommend it. You may see JPG/JPEG written lower case, but formally it should be caps.
Q: What does that stand for by the way?
A: Joint Photographic Experts Group. It dates back to 1992. Other file formats include GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), PDF (Portable Document Format), EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) and PNG (Portable Networks Graphic).
Q: And finally, social media tips?
A: Don't share drunken pictures of yourself.
Q: I meant in relation to this discussion…
A: Ah yes, of course. Well, company names should keep capitals, despite their app logo love affairs with lower case letters. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. And “blog” (short for web log) is always lower case, but the places they live (WordPress, Blogger etc) keep their caps.
Q: And “apps”? Lower case?
A: Yes, unless it's the store. So the App Store and Google Play would provide apps.
A: Extremely annoying.

Do you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore? Email it to us today!

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