To capitalize or not to capitalize'how do you spell 'Internet'?

To capitalize or not to capitalize'how do you spell 'Internet'?

Could this be the beginning of a trend?

Wired News announced on its Web site (or web site) this morning that, 'effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the 'I' in internet. At the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net.'

The reason, said Wired News copy chief Tony Long, is that 'there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words.'

It is hard to say how quickly this will catch on. Adolescent e-mail users already spell the word with a lowercase 'i', but then, they spell everything lowercase. The Associated Press Stylebook still calls for an uppercase 'I', as does the Government Computer News Stylebook and Webster's New World College Dictionary, the dictionary of last resort on the GCN copy desk.

But nobody is really quite sure why. In English, capitalization generally is reserved for proper nouns, which Webster's defines as referring to 'a particular being or thing.' The AP Stylebook describes Internet as 'a decentralized, worldwide network of computers that can communicate with each other.' Not very particular.

GCN editor-in-chief Tom Temin considers Wired an arbiter of technical style, and said it might be time for a change in style.

'I've thought about that,' he said. 'I don't know why it ever got capitalized. It's more habit, I think, than any compelling reason.'

But don't look for changes on this Web site (or web site) anytime soon.

'We will continue to maintain the current style,' said chief GCN copy editor Jim Sweeney.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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