I know it may be too controversial to discuss here, but there’s a raging national debate that I need to weigh in on:
“Healthcare” should be one word, not two.
As a copywriter, my job is to write clear and compelling language, and sometimes that conflicts with what’s technically “right”. Adspeak allows for the occasional waiving of grammar and even spelling rules in favor of what sounds good—after all, you want to warmly engage the reader, not turn them off condescendingly.
This sort of talk gets English purists all up in arms. My journalist friends are evangelists of AP Style, praising it as the One True Word. My sister, an Ivy League professor, believes in the sanctity of language and shudders at how our vocabulary has devolved in a culture of fast food (Late Nite, Drive Thru) and texting (thx dood).
But that’s the great thing about English: it’s a living, breathing creature, and its modern global nature encompasses emerging phrases and norms from around the world. It’s the Roman Empire of languages, and there’s no stopping it.
(This is nothing new. Over the past century, many commonplace phrases have transformed from two separate words to two hyphenated words to one word—a few examples include to-day, to-morrow, news-paper and base-ball. That’s not even counting how we Americans have already “dumbed down” the British version of our language by dropping the “u” in “colour” and substituting the “z” in “realize”; but we also invented modern democracy and saved them in two World Wars, so they cut us some slack.)
But back to merging words. Healthcare may be the highest profile case today, but there are two others I feel even stronger about.
The first is website. AP Style says it should be “Web site”: two words, capital W. Seriously? The web is still a proper noun? Shall we broad-cast it on our tele-vision? This transformation is long overdue. If “blog” (a contraction of “web log”) could be the 2004 Merriam-Webster Word of the Year, then surely we can abandon Web site by 2010.
The second is e-mail. Now, this is where I’m a little more forgiving. Words that start with “e” as a way of signifying a digital medium can look modern or weird on a case-by-case basis. I’m a fan of the one-word “email”, but I will admit that “ecommerce” and “enewsletter” (which I also prefer) can start looking odd—even moreso if they begin a sentence and you have to capitalize the E. Still, I’ll err on the side of modernity and drop the hyphen until further notice.
If you’re uncomfortable with where this is going, don’t be. Language evolves slowly over time, so you’ve got a while before deciding which way you want to go. But my recommendation is this: five years from now, don’t be the last one in your neighbour-hood to say “Web site”.
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