E-Spellings

Compound words often have me reaching for the dictionary to confirm I’ve spelled them correctly. The Chicago Manual of Style confirms that compound spellings are indeed the most common spelling questions for writers and editors. Is the compound in question two words, hyphenated, or closed up as a single word? Non member, non-member, or nonmember? Complicating matters is that the answer can be different depending on whether you’re using Canadian or American spelling. (Chicago specifies nonmember, but the Canadian Oxford Dictionary lists non-member.)

What about those commonly used compounds made with e for electronic? Canadian Press specifies the following spellings:

  • ebook (COD lists e-book)
  • email
  • e-commerce
  • e-reader
  • e-waste
  • e-zine

From this list, it’s obvious that the most common words — ebook and email — have, through common usage, become acceptable as closed compounds. With time, the other words will probably become closed as well.

Chicago, a more literary style guide, recommends that hyphens be used with e compounds.

As always, choosing a style and using it consistently is the important thing.

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