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“The Age-Old Tech Writing Dilemma: Capitalizing ‘Internet’ vs ‘internet'”

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The Capitalization Conundrum: ‘Internet’ vs. ‘internet’

If you’ve followed tech writing over the years, you may have noticed an ongoing debate on one seemingly trivial point: Should the word ‘Internet’ be capitalized? On the surface, it might seem a minor detail, but it reflects larger discussions about language use, technological advancements, and the changes they bring.

In the early days of its creation, the term ‘Internet’ was capitalized to distinguish it as a proper noun. The ‘Internet’, as we commonly refer it, referred to the specific global network of networks that used the TCP/IP communication protocol. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, “The term is capitalized, since it refers to a unique entity” (Chicago Manual of Style, 2021).

However, over time, as the internet seeped into every facet of modern life and became ubiquitous, many began to argue that it should be treated as a common noun, and thus, should not be capitalized. They reasoned that we don’t capitalize words like ‘telephone’ or ‘television’, which are also far-reaching technologies that have changed everyday life.

In 2016, the Associated Press (AP) took a significant step and announced that it would no longer capitalize ‘internet’ in its style guide. The AP reasoned that “the internet and the web are generic terms, lower-case” (AP Stylebook, 2016). This shift influenced many other publications, leading to a widespread trend of using the lowercase ‘internet’.

Despite this, many continue to use ‘Internet’ with a capital ‘I’, out of habit, personal preference, or in specific technical or legal contexts. Ultimately, the decision to use ‘Internet’ or ‘internet’ depends on your specific style guide or personal / organizational preference. It’s crucial to maintain consistency in your usage throughout your writing.

Remember that while language rules offer guidance, they continually adapt and shift as our usage and understanding change. This ‘Internet’ vs. ‘internet’ case is a prime example of how our language continues to evolve alongside the technology it seeks to name and describe.

As changes like these continue to occur, navigating grammar and punctuation can be a complex challenge. Writing tools and professional editing services like PaperBlazer can guide you in maintaining up-to-date, error-free writing amidst the evolution of language norms and standards.

“The Internet or the internet? Upgoer Five or Up-Goer 5? When to capitalize” IEEE Professional Communication Society.
“Does ‘Internet’ Really Merit a Capital ‘I’?” Wired.
“Why We’re Not Capitalizing ‘Internet’ Anymore (Mostly)” NPR.
“Should You Capitalize the Word ‘Internet’?” Chicago Manual of Style.