Capitalization of the web?
June 8, 2005 12:40 AM   Subscribe

The web or the Web; internet or Internet? Do you capitalize them? I'm trying to get a sense of common usage on the net (or Net). Do you, or don't you? And why? As a data point, we don't write the Ocean and the Sky, but some people do write the Moon, and some the moon. I don't care what the experts say; what's the emergent convention? What do YOU do?
posted by kk to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Personally, the internet.

But please bring back the "information superhighway"
posted by ajbattrick at 12:48 AM on June 8, 2005

I don't capitalize web or internet, but I often get corrected by professors and TAs for not capitalizing internet in papers. I think MLA and AP call for "Internet". I don't know why internet should be capitalized, though; if there were one internet, I could see it be given proper noun status, but it strikes me as such a large and varied entity. And I don't know if the word internet has been trademarked.

Capitalizing it seems like such a 90s convention, back when the internet was new and novel and we needed to use the capital I; now it's been around for a while and the luster has worn off.
posted by apple scruff at 12:49 AM on June 8, 2005

The Internet should be capitalized. Small-i "internet" is a technical networking term to refer to a set of networks connected by internetworking. The Internet is only the most prominent example of this, and yes, it is a unique entity, so it is a proper noun.

I hardly ever use the term "the Web" anymore and I'm not sure how useful it is these days, but it should be capitalized, because the World Wide Web is also a unique entity. More frequently I use the terms "web page" or "web site" which are not capitalized. A web page need not even be on the World Wide Web—it can be locked off in some intranet somewhere.
posted by grouse at 1:03 AM on June 8, 2005

Also, I know you said you don't care about "the experts" but here is the current draft from the OED, which also tries to determine language based on usage:
Internet, n. Originally (in form internet): a computer network consisting of or connecting a number of smaller networks, such as two or more local area networks connected by a shared communications protocol; spec. such a network (called ARPAnet) operated by the U.S. Defense Department. In later use (usu. the Internet): the global computer network (which evolved out of ARPAnet) providing a variety of information and communication facilities to its users, and consisting of a loose confederation of interconnected networks which use standardized communication protocols; (also) the information available on this network.
posted by grouse at 1:11 AM on June 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think that Wired had an article about this, a while ago. They made a big thing of choosing to no longer capitalise 'internet' and 'web'.
posted by veedubya at 1:13 AM on June 8, 2005

Ugh. A capped Internet I can agree with, but most academic and scientific styles call for Web page and Web site, and I wince every time I set those caps. They just feel wrong.
posted by melissa may at 1:16 AM on June 8, 2005

I'm fairly sure I read about a major newspaper (like The Times) deciding to stop capitalising the Internet a few months ago.
posted by adrianhon at 1:43 AM on June 8, 2005

The Guardian Style Guide says lower case.
posted by salmacis at 2:11 AM on June 8, 2005

Internet. It's an aesthetic choice, but I think it looks better that way.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:47 AM on June 8, 2005

Wired had a big thing about it, and I quite strongly agreed with their reasoning (although I respected it). I capitalize Web and Internet, and Web is always separate from words like page and site.. 'website' makes me cry. The exception to this is 'webmaster', but this is for historical and technical reasons.
posted by wackybrit at 3:50 AM on June 8, 2005

When I'm writing for work or for publication, I cap them, because that's industry standard. Other times, I don't worry about it. The emerging usage is lower case on both (and website and webpage, sorry wackybrit), so that's what we'll have to get used to.

grouse's distinction makes sense, but that doesn't have much force in opposition to popular usage.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 AM on June 8, 2005

Lowercase for me, but it seems I'm wrong. I'm not sure why Website is worse than Web site, but I would hate to make anyone cry over it.
posted by OmieWise at 5:21 AM on June 8, 2005

Where I work it's Internet and Web site, which is different from how we did it at the company my new employer acquired and makes me crazy. They like our style guide, but to implement it would be a massive undertaking. We'll see if it ever happens.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:53 AM on June 8, 2005

I only capitalize proper names, and never adjectives. Thus, internet, web, moon, and further, american, british, christian, muslim. The latter also apply when I write about people, like 'that crazy christian'. I still capitalize titles and I generally write them out, Mister, Missus, President.

Further, website, webpage, webmaster, webwhatever, all are one word. All these words will eventually be smaller case and compounded, so why not get a jump on everyone else? heheh

I however will always be I. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:28 AM on June 8, 2005

Grouse and Kirth are both right--Internet and Web are both proper nouns, and therefore should be capitalized. But there's still not really any consensus on it, and the lower case versions seem to be gaining ground. I have always used capitalized versions, especially when corresponding with or writing for clients, but it certainly doesn't seem weird or irritating when people do it the other way.
posted by lackutrol at 6:32 AM on June 8, 2005

In my opinion, it would be more consistent to use the Internet and the Web, if you are speaking of the proper name of a specific and unique thing. For instance, when Bush spoke of the "internets" that should not be capitalised, because, apparently he lives in a universe where there are various internets. Capitalising web page or web site is just wrong if you ask me, because they are not proper names.
posted by sic at 6:33 AM on June 8, 2005

When I'm talking about the internet as a noun, it's always "internet". When I'm talking about the internet as a collective group of people, as in "Ask questions on Metafilter and the Internet will answer", it's always Internet. Everything else (web, net, etc) are always lowercase because they are always nouns. Who says I can't make up my own grammar rules? :)
posted by geeky at 6:33 AM on June 8, 2005

wackybrit, I'll take "website" over "web sight" any day of the week. (shudder) I guess I'm guilty of using website, but I do use web page (because "webpage" looks weird, visually).

Personally I don't capitalize web or internet. Yes, the internet proper is a singular entity consisting of a specific set of routers and hardware and whatnot, and yes some (especially engineers who work on said network) will make a sticking point of the fact that there are many, many small internets and intranets that contribute to (or are completely isolated from) The Intarweb proper. My own take on it is that common usage should prevail, and in all honesty the average person has no idea that there might be more than one interconnected network of computers, that the internet and the web might technically be two different things, and so on. Thus, I find no issue with a lack of capitalization in that matter. Capitalizing Web and Internet makes me feel like I'm pretending to know more about either than I really do. I had a computer science teacher in 7th grade who insisted upon saying "floppy diskette" and "diskette drive" rather than "disk" because technically "diskette" was the proper term for such things, and "disk" was reserved either for HDD or for the larger 10" floppies (never nailed him down on that one, I suspect he really knew quite little about it all. Anyway, it made him look like a dick. Or clueless. Or both.) To me, using the capitals makes me feel like that guy. I don't want to be that guy.

I have a hard time seeing the current capitalization trend continuing for much longer, either. I mean, nobody uses the word "gay" to mean "happy" any more; language evolves with usage and time. As the network of computers many of us use daily becomes more commonly available to the average person (both in cost and in availability - the US is seriously behind here, folks!) it will be seen less as this crazy amazing impossible-to-understand new technology and more as simply another new medium through which to communicate. That's the point at which even the sticklers will be hard pressed to insist it be used as a proper noun. My prediction.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:38 AM on June 8, 2005

The Wired article mentioned above — I don't believe anyone else linked it. Surprisingly easy to find by Googling "wired internet".
posted by smackfu at 6:41 AM on June 8, 2005

I capitalize Internet, but nothing else.
posted by hootch at 6:42 AM on June 8, 2005

I prefer to capitalize "the Internet" and "the Web", but not "web site" or "web page"; a web page and its associated web site are not necessarily part of the capitalized World Wide Web, and so shouldn't get the distinction.
posted by ubernostrum at 7:57 AM on June 8, 2005

Personally, I don't capitalize the internet. I think of it as, "Well, I don't capitalize the telephone or power grid." It's just the way I conceptualize it. The web? I don't write things like "Find it on the web" in everyday use. (I default to "online." After all, what's the method have to do with it? And what else am I really going to be talking about? I found it on usenet? Gopher?)

When I write for clients, I use their style guides. And when they don't have a style guide, I either write around it (Stop on by or lowercase it and let the proofing team do what they will.

I have noticed more and more of my clients' style guides are moving to lowercase for internet and the more tech savvy they are, the more likely they seem to use lowercase.
posted by Gucky at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2005

It depends on for whom you are writing.

For example:
MIT Libraries: "capitalize Internet as a noun, but not as adjective (ex: "internet resources")"

U.Penn capitalizes "Internet," and "World Wide Web", but not "web site" (but this is based on the old Wired style guide. The new Wired style guide uses lower case of internet and web.)

There is no real consistent standard, so ask the publisher for whom you are writing. Otherwise, remain internally consistent and it won't really matter.

After writing under a style convention that used no capitalization for a couple of years, I tend to prefer no capitalization, but have no particularly strong feelings either way.
posted by andrewraff at 9:06 AM on June 8, 2005

I agree with grouse et al. "The Internet" but "an internet protocal". "The Web" but "a website". The Canadian Press (Caps and Spelling, 16th ed, 2003) backs me up on this.
World Wide Web, and the Web when it stands for World Wide Web, will continue to be capped. But other uses will be lowercase and in some cases words have been fused: website, webmaster, web page, webcast, etc.
I still much prefer e-mail over email, despite what Wired says. As Bill Walsh points out in Lapsing Into a Comma, no initial-based term has ever evolved into a solid word: T-shirt, X-ray, D-Day, I-beam. It's also CP style.
posted by Monk at 10:15 AM on June 8, 2005

My preferences: "The Internet", "The World Wide Web", and "The Web", but "internet appliance" and "web site".
posted by aneel at 10:28 AM on June 8, 2005

I use Internet as per the AP Styleguide.
posted by necessitas at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2005

While online, I tend to use the web and internet. Websites and the internet are great for finding information, but they're especially useful for contacting other people. Don't you hate it when you find many people who are obviously well-connected, well-travelled, and knowledgeable about many different things, but tend to only ask questions on websites, and not generally repond to questions by other website users. I'm not sure why this is true, anymore than I'm sure why the style guides that format my grad school paper require me to use proper nouns such as Internet and Web page. I generally will succumb to the use of "the Internet" for old geezer profs, but also use "website" if I'm feeling particularly punchy. I like the idea that it's not a specific "Internet," that makes it feel old-fashioned, but rather "the internet," a place where dreams come true. Gucky's right: more use of capitalization equals less tech-saavy person (and probably business-speak, that language of dread). I'm not sure why that is, but it's held true for me so far. Anyone who uses Web Sight (or any derivation thereof) makes the baby jesus cry. And me, for that matter.
posted by fionab at 3:21 PM on June 8, 2005

Here's another line of thought to consider: the web and/or the internet is one of the older online 'concepts' so there will be shifting conventions over time. I would suggest that you look at the newer concepts if you're looking for emerging ideas or conventions. Only dolts say Web Logs, or even Blogs, or even Blog - it's weblogs, blogs, or blog.
posted by fionab at 4:37 PM on June 8, 2005

As per necessitas:
Associated Press Styleguide dictates: Internet, Web, Net
But, I find it irritating and try not to use it (although my editors would probably disagree...).
posted by ebeeb at 12:32 AM on June 9, 2005

I think it's a funny assertion that capitalization of the Internet is an indication of less tech savvy, especially since it usually comes from people who have ignorant beliefs like the Internet being "new and novel" in the 90s.

I like what Bill Walsh has to say:
Q. When do "Web site" and "e-mail" get to come into their own and be accepted as "website" and "email"?

A. Many (most?) people think that has already happened. Many of those same people, of course, spell "your" as "ur."
posted by grouse at 2:42 AM on June 9, 2005

There was a nice piece by NPR's linguist Geoff Nunberg on this question as well as the place-name metaphors used to describe the Internet.

And my vote is to capitalize Internet and Web, but none of the others.
posted by Tallguy at 5:19 PM on June 10, 2005

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