Email, ebook, iPhone, eink and all the little hyphens

Posted on by Mike Evans

Good news that Associated Press have finally buried the hyphen in "email". I'm now hoping we can finalise on ebook and ebook reader, but what about eink which can easily be mistaken for a pig's oink? Two vowels together don't make for happy reading, but we have to keep working at it. 

In the past ten years we've seen lots of spelling and style conventions turned on their heads, particularly in the tech world. It's not necessarily a bad thing because all languages must develop and take on new usage if they are to survive. I remember people joking about "hardware" and "software" when the terms were first mentioned. No one outside the small computer industry had the slightest idea of the difference back then in the early 1970s. Now it's so obvious and it seem incredible that people didn't understand instinctively.

Alongside the new emails and ebooks, we have the strange convention of the initial i of iPhone followed by an uppercase P. This is a new idea, which defies all logic of English grammar, but is being copied slavishly throughout the tech world, not just by Apple with their iWork, iLife, iChat and the rest. It is now totally accepted by everyone except automatic spell checkers which hate a lowercase letter starting a sentence.

Another seeming abuse of the language is the fashion of concatenating two words with a second capital in the middle, as in MacBook, to form a kind of trademark. I actually like this idea and I think it will soon become accepted in the wider language. It will probably take Associated Press and the Oxford English Dictionary a few years to catch up with what is actually happening. 

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