Monday, June 20

The Bushido of Editing: Serving a Corrupt Lord

All right, cats and kitties, this is the real word as it has come down from the mountain.

According to AP style, "e-mail" is now written as "email." The Associated Press issued a wire advisory on March 18, 2011 (yes, I know this is three months later, but I was out of the country, and none of my friends care enough about such things to give me a heads-up).

How do I feel about this? Not happy. Up to this point, I was the keen-edged sword held to the throat of every lazy, uneducated lummox who tried to remove the hyphen from "e-mail." After all, "email" is already a word: a type of pottery design, from 12th century French email, etymologically linked to enamel.

The only reason they're permitting this, this... this damned typographic elision is for the worst reason of all, and it is the reason language changes all over the world, all up and down the timeline. So many people have so consistently gotten it so wrong, the educated bastion of sanity has finally slumped to its desk in defeat and permitted--nay, endorsed, by a cadre of quisling nabobs--this oversight's passage into law. That's all it takes! Language was formed by reason and logic, and it "evolves" because people are too lazy to learn/practice it correctly, so the errors are recorded for posterity!


Imagine you went to buy a car and drove it home, and it fell apart on the highway while you're booting along (at ten miles over the speed limit, in all likelihood. Be honest). Not pretty, right? How could this have happened? It seems a number of workers on the auto assembly line stopped tightening certain bolts. "You know what I meant," they groused. "It looks like a car. There's no breakdown in communication." Factory admin were upset at first, but the workers were so unified and persistent in the remission of their duties, the factory rolled over and made it a rule that no bolt should be tightened.

That's what happened to the hyphen in "electronic mail." Thanks, lunkheads and rubes, you've bludgeoned your way into yet another "evolution" of the language. I accepted "Web site" transitioning to "website," enforced last year. I adjusted to how badly the marketing industry reapplies the word "creative" to mean nearly anything, to the point where this is an acceptable sentence: "The creative creative created a creative creative," when at some point in the past we might've said, "One of our graphic designers produced some illustrations." Oh, corporate speak, don't even get me started on corporate speak! There are some lines in the sand I will not only draw but fortify... but, as an editor, when the new commandment comes down, I have to enforce the misguided doggerel like "email."

But only in AP. Step to me in Chicago or AMA, and I'll speak respectfully of your travails to your next of kin.

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