Friday, 29 June 2007

Where do you stand on the Great E-learning Spelling Debate?

Maybe there isn't much of a debate; maybe it's only pedants like me who care, but it irritates me every time I see a different spelling, especially when different spellings appear in the same piece of work (you'd be surprised how common this is -have a look at the Wikipedia entry on e-learning).

So which is it to be? e-learning? elearning? E-Learning? e-Learning? eLearning? I think these are the main contenders. The UK's leading journal on the subject prefers the idiosyncratic e.learning for its title, but I suppose that's just a brand. Then there's italicisation of the e. And surely any other options are just too weird?

When I set up the eLearning Alliance in 2001, I chose that spelling because that organisation enjoyed European Union funding, and the EU explicitly preferred "eLearning". I don't know if it still does - there was a page on their website that stated this policy (without explaining it), and I cited it in the 2002 economic report 'eLearning in Scotland', but that page seems to have gone, or at least that link doesn't work any more.

For years since, I have followed the eLearning spelling, but I'm getting nervous about it. It's a bit 1980s, isn't it? This sort of quirky insertion of capitals where none are called for (in the middle of a word, for crying out loud!) Rules is rules, after all - you don't have to be a fan of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, or a lover of the Oxford comma (if in doubt, see Eats, Shoots and Leaves) to acknowledge there are conventions about spelling new words.

So what's the answer? You could just stick an e on the front, as in email, but the most common version seems to be e-learning, so that's what I'm going for now. A kind of Damascene conversion. When the EPD Website gets its summer makeover, it'll change to consistent use of this spelling. And that's that - for the moment, anyway. I reserve the right to change my mind again.

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