Please Use the E-Mail Properly


Lately, my cause has been to eliminate improper usage of “e-mail”: Whereas “e-mail” is short for “electronic mail” and inasmuch as the electronic mail system is modeled after a real life postal system, electronic postal terms should follow those of the real-life postal system. In fact, this is the case. In the software world, we have such things as post offices, mail transit authorities, and mailboxes.

Hence, when people (including me) use the word “e-mail” to refer to a message or an address, it just doesn’t sound right. To illustrate, if you received three birthday cards in the post, you wouldn’t say to your friend, “I got three mails for my birthday.” Nor would you say to him, “What’s your mail so I can send you a thank you mail?” But we do say those things with e-mail.

So I’ve already begun using the terms “e-letter” (electronic letter) and “e-mail address” (electronic mail address), supposing that they are more acceptable. Some have balked at these terms but I insist, nay demand that we change our usage.

Now I have a new proposal which I’d like some feedback on. “Epistle” is a rarely used term for letter. I propose to use this word to describe electronic letters as well. So we end up with e-epistles. I’m not sure of it yet, what do you think?