Posted tagged ‘Internet’

Should “internet” be lowercased? How about “web”?

May 31, 2016

Tomorrow, it’s official: The Internet becomes a common noun.

At least according to the AP Stylebook. Back in April, the Associated Press announced several coming changes; lowercasing “internet” and “web” made the biggest splash.

“The changes reflect a growing trend toward lowercasing both words, which have become generic terms,” AP standards editor Thomas Kent told Poynter.

Both tech (Wired) and nontech (The New Republic) editors have advocated for the change, though with varying degrees of logic. Here’s what Indiana University professor Susan Herring wrote in Wired last year:

“According to Bob Wyman, a Google tech staffer and long-time Net expert, the ‘I’ should be capitalized to make clear the difference in meaning between the Internet (the global network that evolved out of ARPANET, the early Pentagon network), and any generic internet, or computer network connecting a number of smaller networks. … Yet … most people (other than techies) are not aware of any internets other than the Internet—that distinction is no longer relevant in ordinary usage. And for many younger folks who have grown up with the technology, the internet itself is ordinary—just another communication medium, like the telephone, television, and radio.”

(I’m picturing a poster on some computer science lab’s wall that reads, “There is no internet but the Internet, and Steve Jobs is his prophet.” Please tell me such a poster exists.)

As for “web,” Washington Post copyeditor Bill Walsh correctly notes that the word has other, generic meanings, so capping it in this case helps show readers which meaning is meant.

Another argument for the lowercase treatment of either word is that capital letters are speed bumps in reading, not to mention typing (the shift key being sooo difficult to use). Seriously? Ask any copyeditor: Reading comprehension goes up with caps, punctuation, serif type, and other well-regulated aids to understanding. In one of his monthly chats, Walsh wrote, “The argument that there is a general trend away from capitalization would be more persuasive if I didn’t see the same people who champion ‘internet’ and ‘web’ writing about being ‘Sophomores who are majoring in History and love Sushi.’ ”

Hmm. As an editor, I will enforce AP style when clients request it. Off the clock, though, this will have to be—like the serial comma—another area in which we agree to disagree.

A change I approve of: AP has gotten more real about child sex trafficking, banning such uses as “child prostitute” and “teenage prostitute” because they imply that the child “is voluntarily trading sex for money,” Kent says, and a child, by definition, can’t consent. A petition signed by more than 150,000 people, sponsored in part by Human Rights Project for Girls, helped make the case.

Others, FYI:

  • Being more careful about “accidents.” Either “accident” or “crash” is “generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions and wrecks,” says AP. “However, when negligence is claimed or proven, avoid accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible. In such cases, use crash, collision or other terms.”
  • Avoiding “mistress”—because “mister” is not the equivalent. Rather, use “companion,” “friend” (really?), or “lover” if applicable. “Whenever possible,” AP’s new entry says, “phrasing that acknowledges both people in the relationship is preferred: ‘The two were romantically (or sexually) involved.’ ”
  • Keeping “spree” positive. No more using “killing spree” and the like. Though that could get subjective. “Spending spree” could arguably be positive, negative, or both, depending on who’s looking at it.
  • Somewhat defining “exponential.” As in, say, “exponential growth”—it now has to mean progressively larger (5 percent this year, 10 percent next, etc.) and not just fast growth.
  • Somewhat defining “alarms” in terms of fire. Because many of us have no idea what a two-alarm fire is, just that presumably a three-alarm fire is worse. No kidding, says Kent: Such terms are “meaningless” without context, so spell out the number of firefighters or amount of equipment used.
  • Making “dash cam” one word. Once again, though, AP goes halfway by keeping “body cam” two words, thus needlessly confusing both copyeditors and readers.

Copyright 2016 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

Putting out a contract on us

March 28, 2012

I always enjoy the class session on contracts. Two, actually. In any six-week class, I devote 1-1/2 sessions to contracts because they’re that important. I haul out my big soapbox, warn the students that they’re going to get an impassioned rant (is there any other kind?), and go off.

They’ve got to admit it’s entertaining. The 1-1/2 sessions cover Al Gore inventing the Internet (kidding! no comments, please), publishers figuring out what to do with the new electronic box with its blinking orange or green cursor, Jonathan Tasini getting sand kicked in his face and teaming up with the UAW, this “et al” suing that “et al,” historians wailing about lost data, the Supremes adding one plus one, the writers winning the battle but losing the war, and corporate lawyers making up such phrases as “heretofore to be invented throughout the universe.”

In a big class especially, it’s fun to listen while students read the two sample contracts. I’ve warned them that one is worse than the other, but it might not be as easy to tell which is which as it was with the two sample queries earlier in the class. In silence they read suspiciously, carefully, parsing out the legalese. Then someone gets to the “throughout the universe” line and gasps. And I suppress a giggle.

I like lawyers. I lived with a lawyer. I watch lawyer shows. I like the lawyers I’ve worked with. But the ones who write freelance contracts? Uh-uh. Evil moneygrubbing rights grabbers! Ripoff artists! Obnoxiously ignorant, too, when they insist that this is work made for hire (and often follow that by insisting that if a court finds it isn’t, it is anyway).

Last week I explained the full ramifications of selling all rights. The look of horror on at least two faces was satisfying. When I explained this week why I feel so passionately about this, spending quite a while spelling out all the ancillary rights it’s possible to use and illustrating by anecdote all the potential those rights have even if you doubt you’ll use them, the dawning understanding on more faces was equally satisfying. As always, I enumerated the three reasons I (almost) never sign an all-rights contract: It’s bad for me, it’s bad for other writers (I don’t want to encourage the bastards), and I want to be able to come to class and tell my students that I didn’t sign. It does undermine my point a bit that I have to explain these days having signed a few, but there’s context to that, and I hope the greater lesson gets through. Certainly the many times I concluded, “I’m glad I kept the rights” and “I sure hope s/he kept the rights” must have sunk in.

It occurs to me that my 1-1/2 sessions on contracts come off a bit like Star Wars. There’s the classic good-versus-evil, underdog-versus-Goliath story, with heroes and villains and larger-than-life characters – and while in real life the little guys are losing to the evil empire, there is hope; there are rebels who win victories and push back with pluck and smarts. Maybe ASJA and Contracts Watch will win the day after all. I doubt they’ll blow up the Death Star on Times Square, but maybe they’ll, ah, put out a contract on it.

Copyright 2012 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.