E-mail, email, anal
Last week, I twitted the Associated Press Stylebook over the shift from e-mail to email, along with the overheated response from copy editors.* Not everyone was amused: @Vonnestar tweeted, “No, AP changes aren't the most important thing in the world, but you don't have to be an ass about it, @johnemcintyre.”
I’m not sure that she grasps my mission.
Arnold Zwicky, however, did, commenting on his blog:
“As a practicing copyeditor, McIntyre is entitled to his mocking hyperbole. I share his sentiments entirely; this is not even a tempest in a teapot, it’s a fuss in a thimbleful of spit, a matter of no consequence at all.
“And, as McIntyre understands, the AP Stylebook (or Style Book, or whatever) has no scintilla of the force of law and is often profoundly silly in its blanket declarations. So the astonishing response that this change in advice has elicited on the web is dismaying.
“Please do not write to tell me that my practice of spelling the word E-MAIL rather than EMAIL is now simply incorrect (or, worse, and incomprehensibly, ‘ungrammatical’) and that I should be publicly shamed. There are justifications for both spellings, and why should there have to be One Right Way, and anyway why should anyone care?”
You should have a look at his posting, because he goes into some detail about the phenomenon of “two-part expressions as separated, hyphenated, or solid.” Anyone who pays any attention at all to the language is aware that variants—he pointedly suggests copy editor, copy-editor, and copyeditor—often exist simultaneously, depending on the habits and preferences of different communities. It is largely a matter of taste whether you or your publication prefers one, not a point of correctness. Associated Press Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, tomato, tomahto.**
I should warn you, however, that you who prefer hyphens may wish to guard your supply. A post today at The Subversive Copy Editor indicates that some behind-closed-doors deal between Chicago and AP is in the works. I won’t go so far as to say that it amounts to a combination in restraint of trade, but someone ought to alert the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
*Copy editors are the only people on the planet, Associated Press writers and editors not excluded, who pay any attention to what AP style is, or care.
**Someone suggested last week that when the American Copy Editors Society convenes in New Orleans in 2012, it should offer a smackdown between Chicago and AP. This is a splendid idea. I am confident that Carol Fisher Saller could take David Minthorn and Darrell Christian, either singly or together. If wagering is permitted, I will put money on it.