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The Last Word on E-Words and Ewords

In response to this comment to my previous post on web writing standards (capitalizing "Internet," "web site" vs. "website," etc.), here is the consensus (such as it is) on e-words.

According to Google Fight, "e-mail" wins over "email" by roughly a 5-3 margin. Spellweb also uses Google searches as the authority, favoring "e-mail" over "email" by a 3-2 margin. Meryl's Notes Blog comes down firmly in the middle ("It's a toss up!"), though she insists that "web site" is two words.

However, Professor Donald Knuth of Stanford argues for "email" - "Newly coined words of English are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used." agrees, citing Google searches as the authority. Slashdot had an incredibly active forum discussion on the topic that seemed to settle on "email," referencing a Wired article -- back in 2000. A current Google search makes "email" the winner by nearly a 2-t0-1 margin.

So what about "e-commerce" vs. "ecommerce"? Freelancers Network argues for the latter (on the basis that "email" is more accepted than "e-mail"). But in this case, the hyphenated form wins in a Google search by about a 5-2 margin. Google Fight pegs this margin as closer to 4-1, and SpellWeb has "e-commerce" winning by nearly 3-1. The UCI Style Guide favors the e-hyphen form for all e-words. The Oxford Dictionary confusingly favors "email" but "e-commerce." Is all of that clear?

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Finally, a manual Google search has "e-business" beating "ebusiness" by a 5-1 margin. Google Fight puts this ratio at more than 10-1, while SpellWeb has the hyphenated form winning by about 8-1.

There you have it. If you sell or market online, you definitely engaged in e-commerce or e-business. But you might communicate to your customers using either email or e-mail. Enough.


Terms: email, e-mail, ecommerce, e-commerce, e-business, ebusiness, GoogleFight, SpellWeb, web writing standards, Donald Knuth

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