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Four reasons why American media should lowercase 'Internet'

It hasn’t happened yet in the lower 48, Alaska, or Hawaii, but it’s bound to happen soon: major style guides lowercasing the word “Internet.” And on that day when the style desks of The New York Times and the Associated Press finally issue a press release about the need to start lowercasing Internet in all news articles, headlines, and blogs, we will know that America has finally woken up to web-based reality.

We don’t capitalize words like Radio or Television or Motion Pictures anymore, do we? Once, of course, we did. Now, we know better. However, regarding the Internet, we are still behind the curve, behind the British, lost in capitalization land. The Guardian and the BBC websites got it right, long ago. We need to play catch up. Now.

Here are four reasons to lowercase “Internet”:

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The Internet is part of everyday life. It's not a brand-name experience. It's not new. It's here to stay. We don't capitalize radio or television anymore. So why are style guides still capping the "I" in Internet?

James Hardy/Altopress/Newscom

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1. Usage should reflect how we think about the online world

Back in 2002, The New York Times ran a piece on media expert Joseph Turow's campaign to lowercase "Internet." At the time, Mr. Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, had convinced MIT press to let him leave the capital I off "internet" in new content in his forthcoming book.

He was not driven simply by a passion for updating grammar and stylebooks, but as the article explains, his efforts were a push to help Americans “acknowledge a deep shift in the way we think about the online world.”

The Internet is embedded in our everyday world and isn't some uppercase novelty. Even though Americans invented the Internet, by capitalizing it, American copy editors are out of touch with its evolved place in our lives. (Even here at the now web-daily Monitor, style gurus insist on capping the “I.”)

The cyberspace experience is not an isolated, novel, or occasional diversion. It’s engrained in how we live – from how we access information, to how we work, to how we spend our leisure time. Our usage of the term should reflect that fundamental shift, particularly in the news media, where the Internet is now king.

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