Is it “Internet,” with a capital “I,” or just “internet”? “Web” or “web”? Few debates in the history of the English language have raged more passionately. Now, The Associated Press—purveyor of the AP Stylebook, used by journalists for the last century to standardize mass communications—has made a pronouncement. No more will the AP insist on capitalizing either word: today, it’s officially declaring its allegiance to the lowercase camp. (This is personally very satisfying to me.)
Every day I read stories on the web, and on weekdays, I write words for the internet.
So, hey, everyone, here’s the proper way to write it—officially. It’s “internet.” And “web.” Period. The styling is being announced today at the American Copy Editors Society national conference in Portland, Oregon. The Stylebook, whose changes will go into effect when the new print edition is published on June 1, will include more than 240 new and modified entries, but clearly the other 238 are not as important as imparting the knowledge to humans—definitively—that there is a proper way to write these two ubiquitous, everyday words. Here’s me using both of them in a sentence: Every day I read stories on the web, and on weekdays, I write words for the internet. (I just can’t get enough of it.)
At WIRED itself, this debate has raged for many years. In 2004, Wired News copy chief Tony Long (correctly) said, “There is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually there never was.” But two years after his decree, when Wired News was bought by Condé Nast, we reverted (incorrectly) to a capital “I.”
Staffers are mixed on their opinions. Gadget Lab editor Michael Calore says he feels very vindicated by this move, given that his first journalism job was in 1995—a year when both words were “still foreign to most normals.”
“The editor made me write ‘the Internet’s World Wide Web’ on first mention, every time,” he Slacked a room full of dumbfounded WIRED writers. (“It’s confusing because usually in my stories I’m referring to Todd Internet—a good friend of mine who has a lot of opinions on technology,” responded contributing editor Brian Barrett.)
My own editor, Marcus Wohlsen, a former APer, ruthlessly changes all of my copy from “internet” to “Internet”—a power he will hopefully no longer have over my stories. He appended a scream emoji to my Slack message when he heard this news, and wrote, “My whole world has turned upside down! There is only one Internet! There is only one Web!” (Which makes them proper nouns, hence the capital letter!—Ed.)
He’s wrong. WIRED actually already uses the lowercase “web,” per our in-house style guide. Our style on “internet” has varied, however. Homepage editor Sam Oltman says she tries to “go rogue” on the word as much as she can, though some writers always change any edits she makes back to a capital “I.” And it’s unclear how WIRED will finally come down on this contentious issue, copy chief Brian Dustrud says.
“WIRED uses many sources when making style decisions, most notably the Chicago Manual of Style and the Merriam-Webster dictionary,” Dustrud Slacked an official statement to me. “But when the Associated Press makes what some might consider a major change, that gets our attention. So Internet vs. internet will certainly be something we’ll be discussing again soon. For the short term, we’ll continue to capitalize it.”
No! Regardless of how this is resolved at WIRED, this is heartening news. The AP Stylebook exerts a strong influence over journalistic outlets all over the internet, which means there should be a deluge of young journalists finally learning how to style their articles and screeds and philosophical musings the right way on the web. The jury is still out at WIRED. But for most everyone else, it is web. And it is internet.