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Standard Internet Terms Have Changed

Languages change radically over time.

Listen to an online audio podcast of Proto-Indo-European and you’ll see what I mean.

Die-hard types inevitably resist changes to their native tongues. However, new Associated Press Stylebook guidelines are asking traditional tech writers to update their English internet language as follows–

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  • Internet, as of January 2015 is “internet,” lower case. Long overdue, in my opinion! Of course, not all publishers/writers are onboard with this and other recommended changes.
  • Also, it’s “web” (lower case) not “Web” or any other variant thereof.
  • One term now seldom used is “cyberspace.” Have you noticed the shift? Web searches for that word have declined steadily over the past 10 years.
  • By contrast, phrases like “cyber attack” and “cybercrime” are now common. In effect, the term “cyber” has taken on the tonality of things dark and dangerous.
  • People now routinely use the word “online,” as in “I’m online six hours a day.” This simple term is increasingly favored over “internet.”
  • People now often say, “I’ll look on my phone” instead of “I’ll go online.” Makes sense, right? –Our phone is what we see in front of us.
  • “Google” has gained use as a verb replacing the conventional “search. It’s also gained acceptance as a generic noun as in “Let me check Google”–regardless of what search engine a person may be using.
  • “Verbing” nouns isn’t new. That’s how Xerox (the company) became “please xerox this for me.” Similarly, you hear people say things like “I’ll Facebook you” to indicate they’ll send a message.
  • Finally, as language gets simpler, e-mail is now just email. Many terms have followed an evolution from compound to hyphenated to single.

In short, over time we tend to prefer language that isn’t technical or abstract in favor of terms that refer to the tangible. Most people resonate with terminology that is concrete, not abstract. Apps like Siri and Google Now reinforce this preference by encouraging us to ask questions as we would in natural speech.

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Internet Slang

A completely different dynamic characterizes the development of internet slang. Teenagers, for example, love to adopt distinct, often coded terms within their peer groups. They’re constantly innovating linguistically, especially on new mediums like Snapchat, Instagram and Kik.

So, is the internet accelerating language change? Perhaps. But seeing so many transient changes in print (online) also makes us more sensitive to changes, even those that are ephemeral.

One thing is for sure–the informality of everyday speech is now permeating the written word thanks to the web.

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