The Writer’s Toolbox – I, Internet

A few months ago I got exciting news that I eagerly shared with one of my authors: “The AP is finally lowercasing Internet! Can I get rid of all those capital letters?”

Her response was equally enthusiastic?heck yes! She thought the convention was stupid anyway.

The AP’s decision was announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference this past March, but it’s only as of June 1, 2016, that AP style no longer requires Internet to be capitalized.

If this comes as surprising news to you?because you can’t fathom why we’re still capitalizing Internet in 2016?you’re not alone. Digital native or not, I’ve long found the convention unnecessary, one of those distinctions preserved for its own sake rather than for its usefulness in helping us communicate. Yes, technically there is a difference between an internet and the Internet, but let’s face it?the vast majority of us mean only one thing when we say the word. Lowercasing or capitalizing, there’s little chance for confusion. With more and more traditionally capitalized words being lowercased, it makes sense from a stylistic side too.

Still, it’s a big deal in the editing world when a change like that comes through, and change is slow?very slow. So far, only the AP Stylebook has made an official decision on the matter. The Chicago Manual of Style editors haven’t announced a similar change, though they already prefer lowercased web?another newly lowercased word in AP style as of June 1 (yes, AP style preferred it written as “Web” before?and many publications ignored that). Canadian Press Stylebook editor James McCarten wrote on Twitter on June 2 that the internet/Internet distinction was “under review,” so Canadian journalists and editors may soon see something official coming their way.

Which means that at some point The Voice might address the issue. I’d like to see the Canadian Press decision first before I make a prediction, but given the fact that the Voice style guide already notes that the lowercased spelling of Internet is becoming more widely accepted, I suspect it’ll be eventually be written as “internet” here too.

In the meantime, how should you handle the word as a writer? Know your audience. If your professor swears by Chicago, stick to “Internet.” If your company’s preferences are ambiguous, it can’t hurt to ask, though you might get reactions ranging from “Who cares?” to “You’re the perfect person to update the style guide?here you go.”

If you’re working with fiction, you have a lot more leeway?there’s no style guide specifically for fiction other than whatever your publisher gives you?so go with your preference.

Internet or internet? How do you feel about the AP decision?

Christina M. Frey is a book editor, literary coach, and lover of great writing. For more tips and techniques for your toolbox, follow her on Twitter (@turntopage2) or visit her blog.