Is it website or Web site? A Social Media Grammar Lesson from the AP

Editor's Note: Revised in February 2017, this article originally published in February 2013 and has been featured on Grammar Girl, Yahoo! Small Business and Business2Community.

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(Spoiler Alert: It's website!) By now, shouldn't we all be spelling 'website' the same way, as in one word that is all lowercase? Well, things have been moving pretty quickly over the last several years. New social media channels such as Snapchat and WhatsApp are capturing our attention, just as we're getting comfortable Googling on the web, liking Facebook posts, and retweeting tweets. In honor of National Grammar Day on March 4th, we take a fresh look at the newest nouns and verbs coming out of the social media world - and how to spell and use them. 

Here at Maccabee, we frequently turn to the foremost authority on writing in our profession – the Associated Press. We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing someone is dictating syntax standards for new technology-related terms! Plus, it's actually quite a wonder that the newsgathering cooperative dating from 1846 is the one doing such a great job. Hear, hear for the AP and consistency in writing!

National Grammar Day

How to Use These 16 Trendy Tech Terms

Read on for common social media and online marketing terms you can't live without in business these days, complete with usages and spellings.

  1. app: Short for application, a program that runs inside another service. 
  2. blog: A website where short entries are usually (but not always) presented in reverse chronological order, with the newest entry first. Can be news, commentary, photos, video or any combination of the above and other items. An update to a blog is a blog post or blog entry. For blog names, use the name as spelled by the writer, capitalizing the first letter and other main words. Don't enclose the name in quotation marks unless it's an unusual spelling that might otherwise be unclear. One should put quotes around the title of the individual blog post. 
  3. check in (v.), check-in (n. and adj.): When using a location-based social networking tool, such as Facebook, the act of sharing a location via a mobile device.
  4. click-thrus: A way of measuring how many people click a link online to see its destination site. Click-thrus are often used to set advertising rates. 
  5. curate: To find, select, package and present hand-picked content to the public online, in contrast to the distribution of material through automated news feeds. Often used in conjunction with social media. (Editor's Note: For more on this practice, read Content Curation: Defining What It Is and Is Not post.)
  6. e-book: The electronic, nonpaper version of a book or publication, distributed digitally and commonly consumed in PDF or on an e-reader app on a smartphone, tablet or PC.
  7. email: Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. Use a hyphen with other e- terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce. 
  8. emoji: Symbols including cartoon faces, hand gestures, food and animals, often used on mobile devices such as smartphones. They can be used instead of words or as illustrations in text messages and in social media posts. Plural: emojis.
  9. friend, follow, like, react: Acceptable as both nouns and verbs. Friend is typically used on Facebook, while on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram users follow and have followers. 
  10. Google, Googling, Googled: Google is an internet company that runs a search engine and digital advertising network. Google, Googling and Googled are used informally as a verb for performing an internet search. Google has built several other digital products, including Android software for mobile devices, the Chrome web browser, the Gmail email service and the YouTube video site, which the company bought in 2006.
  11. hashtag: The use of a number sign (#) to convey the subject a user is writing about so that it can be indexed and accessed in other users' feeds. No space is used between the number sign and the accompanying search term. Hashtags were popularized on Twitter but are now also common on a variety of social networks, such as Instagram and Facebook.
  12. retweet: The practice, on Twitter, of sharing a tweet by someone else to your followers. Spelled out in all references, though common usage on Twitter abbreviates to RT.
  13. smartphone: An advanced mobile device, such as an iPhone, that can be used to check email, browse the Web and download applications.
  14. social media: Refers to the tools that allow the sharing of information and content and the formation of communities through online and mobile networks of people.
  15. virtual reality: An artificial environment created by technology. The AP says to spell it out in lowercase on the first reference; abbreviate it as VR on the second reference.
  16. website: A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. The AP Stylebook "website" entry was amended in April 2010 to specify website (one word). Also, webcam, webcast, webmaster, webpage and the web.

How To Spell 13 Social Media Sites

As E.A. Bucchianeri wisely quipped, "#Twitter: Proudly promoting ghastly grammar and silly misspelling since 2006." Don't be caught mistyping the name of your favorite social website anytime soon. Here's a list of the Associated Press' recommendations for site name use of popular social media channels.

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  1. Facebook: The world's most popular social network. Users share content in the form of text, photos, video clips and links to websites. They also use the service to communicate with one another privately, form groups around topics of interest, play games and promote businesses and organizations. 
  2. Google Plus: A social network owned by Google in which users can share text updates, videos, photos or other content, and organize fellow users into circles based on relationships or other factors. One popular feature of Google Plus is Hangouts, where users can chat with others using webcams.
  3. Instagram: A social network in which users share photos or short videos they've taken, usually on a phone, with people who have chosen to follow them. Instagram photos are frequently shared onto other social networks.
  4. LinkedIn: A social media site used mainly for professional networking.
  5. Periscope: A live video-streaming app from Twitter. 
  6. Pinterest: A social network in which users collect and share images from the web in theme-based collections, also known as pinboards or boards. Images that are shared on Pinterest – or pinned – are sometimes referred to as pins.
  7. Reddit: A social network that features message board-style pages, organized into topic-based pages called subreddits, where users share content and converse about it. Users can vote up or down on individual conversation threads and comments, determining which ones are most prominently displayed on the site. "Ask me anything" posts, known as AMAs, give users an opportunity to pose questions to public figures, topic experts and people who have had interesting experiences.
  8. Snapchat:  A mobile messaging app. Use the lowercase spelling snap for a Snapchat posting. Snapchat "stories" give users the option of publishing content and making it viewable for a full 24 hours, and a Discover section features stories from a handful of media organizations.
  9. Tumblr: A digital platform where users post written blog entries, photos, videos and music. 
  10. Twitter: A social network on which users share text, photos, video and links to outside content with their followers, in short tweets. The verb is to tweet, tweeted.
  11. Vimeo: A video-sharing network owned by IAC, an internet company whose holdings include Match.com and The Daily Beast.
  12. WhatsApp: Messaging app owned by Facebook that's popular in several countries as an alternative to standard text messaging.
  13. YouTube: A video-serving network owned by Google.

product_2016_homepage.pngMaccaPR Note: The online AP Stylebook guided these definitions, most of which are in the chapter devoted to Social Media Guidelines.

Which word on this list was a total surprise to you? Comment below or share it with me on Twitter using @ChristinaMila and @MaccabeePR.

Image Source: MemeCenter.com

About the Author

Christina Milanowski

Christina Milanowski is vice president and social media director at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Social Media Marketing

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