The Pedants' Revolt: Does The AP's Killing Of E-Mail Mark A Worrying Escalation?

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PHOENIX (TC) — Solemnly they filed into the briefing room at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism: the journalists, the bloggers and those who tweet on behalf of celebrities. Only the scratching of nib against paper and the clicking of keys broke the unpropitious hush, as those in attendance prepared to record the announcement.

And then, at the stroke of 2pm, the representatives of the Associated Press took to the stage. Total silence now. The calm before the bombshell: no less impactful for being anticipated.

“Daddy,” generations of children as yet unborn will ask, “where were you when the Associated Press removed the hyphen from the word ‘e-mail’?”

Yes, after this morning’s world-changing announcement, the jounalistic cyber-pedantry landscape will never look the same. Never mind the fact that most of us dropped the hyphen from “e-mail” around about the same time we stopped dialling up to Compuserve. And never mind that the AP’s acknowledgment that email is a distinct and legitimate communications medium comes just as the rest of the world has moved on to IMs and DMs.

No, never mind any of that: this a monumental development – as big at least as the moment when, earlier this month, the Pope finally declared that we should all stop blaming the Jews for killing Jesus; or the time last week when my mother finally realised she didn’t have to begin every IM to me with the greeting “Dear Paul,”.

The change doesn’t become official until 2am tomorrow morning (CDT) — but at least one AP writer was happy to risk his job by breaking his own employer’s embargo…

Under the headline “Innocence Project professor pulled from class”, the unnamed AP writer wrote…

“A Northwestern University journalism professor whose students are credited with helping to free more than 10 innocent men from prison – including death row – has been pulled from the class that made him famous amid allegations of ethics violations.

David Protess told the Chicago Tribune he was notified by email this week that he wouldn’t be teaching the investigative journalism course for the upcoming quarter.”

“Notified by email.” Just seeing it written like that gives me goosebumps.

But that’s not all; just as the assembled throng in the briefing room of Arizona State were regaining their collective wits, the AP spokespeople struck out with not one but two additional haymakers. Effective Saturday morning, both “cell phone” – boom! – and “smart phone” - thwack! – will become self-contain nouns. They won’t even go through the hyphenated gestation period: from 2am tomorrow, as if by magic, the words cellphone and smartphone will pop, fully formed, into existence.

For an Internet purist like me, this is starting to look like a worrying escalation: a sign that the once-staid AP might be losing their heads in the Internet age. With e-mail and “cell phone” and “smart phone” gone, how long can it be until “home page” ceases to be two words? And then… well…

First they came for e-mail, but I haven’t used the hyphenated form for years, so I did nothing.

Then they came for “cell phone” and “smart phone” but I’m not my grandparents, so I did nothing.

… and then they came for the uppercase ‘I’ in ‘Internet’.

Out of my cold, dead hands, AP. Out of my cold, dead hands.