Q: Everywhere I turn I see “email” (or is it “e-mail”?) punctuated differently. Can you tell me which is correct? —Kate T.
I have an answer but I’m not so sure it’ll be as satisfying as you’d hoped: Punctuating “e-mail” with or without a hyphen is completely a style choice and varies from publication to publication. For years, The Associated Press Stylebook recommended using “e-mail,” but early in 2011 it changed course and now claims “email” is the way to go. Why? According to its Ask the Editors page, the AP’s acceptance of “e-mail” without the hyphen “reflects the reality of usage.” In other words, more people are writing it without the hyphen, and AP is just adapting to the times.
Now, just because the AP has made the switch doesn’t mean everyone has. The New York Times still spells it “e-mail.” In fact, Writer’s Digest does, too. Maybe one day we’ll switch; maybe we won’t. But unless a higher authority (I’m looking at you, Merriam-Webster) declares one way or the other to be the only correct form, we don’t have to. Neither do you. Like most style choices, the only thing you must do is stay consistent. Having it spelled both ways in an article or story looks sloppy and unprofessional.