Email Tip – E-mail Versus Email

Muhammed’s question: “I have read that The Associated Press has officially killed off ‘e-mail’ in favour of ‘email’ in their official style guide. What are your thoughts?”

BizWritingTip response: My first thought is that whatever I write will irritate someone. E-mail is the original spelling of the word. Normally, all English words that use a single letter to replace a word are connected to the next word with a hyphen.

A-bomb (atom bomb)
T-shirt (tee shirt)
X-ray (unknown ray)
U-boat (unterseeboot boat)
E-mail (electronic mail)

Note: The first letter in these words is always capitalized – except for e-mail, which is written with a lowercase “e” when the word does not start a sentence.

Examples (correct)
E-mails should start with an action request.
I will send you an e-mail tomorrow.
Did you have your X-ray?

Over the years, people involved in developing and managing the Internet shortened the word to email. (It involves one less keystroke.) People who pride themselves on their use of the English language have stuck with the more formal e-mail.

It’s interesting to note that the Associated Press has now decided to officially go withemail. But The Chicago Manual of Style and The Canadian Press Stylebook are still sticking with e-mail. Who knows what will happen next year. The language is constantly evolving.

Frankly, this word is so common now that there really can be no misunderstanding when you use it with or without the hyphen. I believe the final ruling on this one should be an organization’s decision and should be in their stylebook. If your company doesn’t have a style guide, then be consistent at least with your own spelling.