Tips About 10 Technological Terms
Which tech terms merit capitalization, and which are generic? Which terms are open compounds, and which are treated as one word? Here’s a guide to treatment of some of the most common names for technological phenomena:
1. App: This abbreviation of application has existed for nearly a quarter century but has only recently entered general usage. Few publications bother to use the full term on first reference.
2. E-mail: This abbreviation of “electronic mail” prevails in usage over email. (Note that the e should not be capitalized.) The formal plural is e-mail (or, if you prefer “e-mail messages,” to distinguish the transmissions from the term for the concept); e-mails is the informal plural form. E-book, e-commerce, and associated terms follow the hyphenation style of e-mail.
3. Global Positioning System: This satellite-based navigation system is a specific entity enabled by the US government and is therefore initial capitalized. It is also identified by the abbreviation GPS, which is so ubiquitous that some publications don’t bother to spell the name out on first reference. However, to distinguish between the system and a device that employs it, I recommend using the abbreviation as an adjective in that context — for example, “GPS receiver” — rather than the letters alone.
4. Home page: This term for the page from which all other pages on a website are accessed is generally treated as an open compound, though some publications close it.
5. Initial lowercase letters: Honor initial lowercase letters (iPhone), midcaps (YouTube), and the like, but in the case, so to speak, of the former, avoiding starting a sentence with such aberrant branding gimmicks.
6. In-box: This word for your e-mail program’s main folder for incoming messages, borrowed from the name for a tray on the top of a desk in which papers are delivered to the desk’s occupant, is often hyphenated, though Gmail, at least, treats it as a closed compound, as do some publications.
7. Internet: Some publications, arguing that the Internet is an amorphous network of interconnected computers, lowercase this term, but most treat it as a proper noun — as do organizations that set international standards and maintain technological infrastructure. (However, intranet, which refers to a closed, internal online network — for example, that of a company — is generic.) Some day, though, Internet may, like many other once capitalized terms, be downgraded to generic status.
8. Software names: Capitalize names of all software. Also, when referring to word-processing software, include the brand name — “Microsoft Word,” “Adobe Acrobat,” and so on — at least on first reference.
9. Smartphone: This term for is a mobile phone with sophisticated recording and communication functions is a closed compound.
10. Web: When the word appears by itself to refer to the World Wide Web, or when it appears in open compounds such as “Web page” and “Web host,” retain initial capitalization. When it is the first component of a closed compound (webmaster, website), lowercase it. (You’ll find the latter example as two words, with web capitalized, elsewhere on this site, because I just recently accepted the inevitable and started styling the term in the prevailing form rather than the one long favored by the technorati.)
Also, observe the distinction between the Web and the Internet; the former is but one component of the latter.
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