E-mail vs. email

A few editorially conservative publications still prefer e-mail to email, but most of the English-speaking world has adopted the unhyphenated form. In a Google News search covering 2011 and the start of 2012, there are approximately six instances of email for every e-mail, a dramatic shift from a couple of years ago. And the unhyphenated form is even more common outside newswriting.


In non-U.S. English publications, email already beats e-mail by a wide margin. For example, email is used as a rule in these and many other publications:

The News of the World has revealed that its computers have retained an archive of potentially damning emails. [Guardian]

The act of civic engagement also appears to have signed her up to receive Conservative attack ads in her email. [Toronto Star]

The email arrived in Major Paul Morgan’s restricted Defence account in March last year. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Exceptions are still easily found, however:

Mr. O’Neill was up to visit clients, and in an e-mail afterwards, he recounted his observations. [Globe and Mail]

Alterian licenses software to help marketers target their audience, using web content management, e-mail and social media monitoring tools. [Financial Times]

American publications in general are more reluctant than others to let go of e-mail. This is in large part due to the influence of the New York Times, which is notoriously stodgy with tech terms. The Washington Post uses the old form as well: 

Security experts said Monday that millions of people were at increased risk of e-mail swindles after a giant security breach at an online marketing firm. [New York Times]

When Betsy Gorman is working on a real estate contract, she sometimes will drop an e-mail to her partner seeking details. [Washington Post]

But the newer form, as seen below, is increasingly common in the U.S.:

In Washington, as in workplaces across the country, email is a vital—if lamented—thread of work and social life. [Wall Street Journal]

An Orange County Republican Party official is defending an email she sent that portrays President Obama’s face superimposed on a chimpanzee. [Los Angeles Times]

11 thoughts on “E-mail vs. email”

    • I would say it can be both, but perhaps some people would disagree. With “email,” there isn’t a countable noun that works for single emails or a number of emails. “Message” sort of works, but it’s usually reserved for electronic messages that aren’t email. In the absence of some alternative, I think we have to accept “emails,” even if it sounds funny.

    • I hear what you’re saying regarding pluralisation and I agree it sounds a bit awkward to say or write ’emails.’ I’ve only recently started using email over e-mail in business correspondence. Around here we’re prone to using truncated and holdover spellings, e.g., alright and all right are used interchangeably, same as goodnight and good night, so it just feels more natural.

  1. Let’s face it, a person writes “email” because he is too lazy to move his pinky toward the hyphen key. If we are saying the “e” as a letter—which we are—we should, indeed, hyphenate. Given that it’s short for “electronic,” I wonder why we do not write it “e’mail” (with an apostrophe), which really makes more sense.

  2. So if I’m writing as a professional, then I need to use the term “e-mail,” basically. But do I capitalize the M or not? E-Mail or E-mail or what? GAHH so confusing!

    • You never capitalise the m, it’s the first letter of a second word (you wouldn’t write Electronic Mail would you?), and you only capitalize the e if it’s the start of a sentance.

  3. When they start calling it ecommerce and ereader instead of e-commerce and e-reader, only then will I start using ’email’. I’ve been using the term e-mail for over thirty years, and am not going to stop now (unless the above also changes).

    • Who are “they?” Also, I’ve seen countless examples of ereader being used opposed to e-reader.

      And 30 years, eh? The most primitive form of an email system is dated back to 1978, 37 years ago when a fourteen year old boy wanted to help the dental school his mother worked at. The first major Internet Service Providers such as AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe hit the scene in the mid 90’s and popular webmail services, such as Hotmail, popped in 1996 and 1997.
      That’s eleven years shy of your suggested 30, silly.

      • Nope, there’s no chance that “Walt D in LV” lives in or near Vegas. ;)

        Anyway, people with academic connections (including many students) had access to e———-mail as far back as the mid-’80s or even earlier, so Walt’s claim is totally feasible.


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