The ‘internet’ Is Down, Says the AP Stylebook

By Joseph Priest, Corporate Writer, Syniverse

A frequently used term in public relations and a sister term have just gotten a face-lift, or face-down, I should say. 

In tandem with the recent American Copy Editors Society (ACES) 2016 annual conference, the usually sound Associated Press announced it will officially use a lowercase spelling for “Internet” and “Web” for its stylebook effective June 1. 

The news was greeted with both praise and skepticism, but those who disagree with the change, like me, are clearly in the minority.

As with the removal of the hyphen in “e-mail,” I’m against this change and against the simplification of digital terms in general. The arguments presented for the lowercase form at the ACES conference seem to be as much about "Aw, c'mon, everyone knows what this means, so why do we need to go to the bother of using the shift key every time?" as much as they are about names vs. generic terms.

"Internet" isn't a brand name or a trademark, but it did enter the language as a name rather than a simple term. It didn't have to, but it did, just as names like “White House,” “Cold War” and “Continental Divide” did. For this reason, I think that precedent should be respected. There’s still a difference between “an internet,” an interconnected system of networks, and “the Internet,” the publicly accessible system of networks that connects computers globally through a certain protocol.

As for "web," that has many other, generic meanings, as opposed to just World Wide Web. A woven fabric or structure, something that is intricately contrived (web of lies), and a fold of skin connecting the toes of some animals are just a few other meanings.   

Public relations pros will be prudent to follow AP style and begin adopting the lowercased spellings of “Internet” and “Web” in their professional work. However, in personal and non-work-related communications, I for one will continue to use “Internet” and “Web” for a while.

What do you think?

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