Keep the Hyphen

I have a good laugh, sometimes, when the voice of Google mangles its pronunciation of certain words.

When I use Google Maps to guide me on routes to which I've never driven, it never pronounces Woodroffe like Ottawa residents say it: "wood-ruff." It says "wood-roh-fee."

It mangles a street name that I would have thought easy to say: Baseline. It says the word quickly and I'm sure I'm mishearing it, but it comes out more like the pronunciation of Vaseline, with a B.

When I have asked Google questions, on my smartphone or tablet, and it reads an answer from an Internet site, there's a word that it struggles with, and I'm not surprised.

The word comes out as "ehm-ale," and when I read the word that the voice has just read, I can see why the word is botched.


The word is e-mail, spelled without a hyphen.

It's one of my many pet peeves. It's evidence that English writers have become lazy and have just stopped giving a crap about language. This is a road I have fought against taking.

The hyphen in e-mail has a distinct function: it separates the word mail from the massively abbreviated word, electronic. Just as in the x in x-ray, the letter stands for something: in this case, an unknown form of radiation that was discovered in 1895.

It is believed by some (another Google search) that the t in t-shirt represents the shape of the garment when it is laid flat.

Both x-ray and t-shirt are exclusively written with hyphens, so why in the world would you write out e-mail without one?

One answer: laziness.

I, for one, will balk at the Microsoft Manual of Style and other such publications. I will hold onto my 2009 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook. Which also includes a hyphen for e-book, e-commerce, and e-business.

And I have learned a lesson from the Google voice: whenever I read aloud the word email (which is French for enamel, in case you didn't know), I pronounce it as a single, complete word.

"Ehm-ale."

Just as I should.

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