Email and e-mail are both correct spellings, but that doesn’t mean they are interchangeable.
Some style guides require you to use the hyphen, while others prefer the spelling without the hyphen. And then there is the word mail, which has a similar meaning to both email and e-mail.
So how do you know which of the three spellings to use?
Today, we will look at the difference between e-mail, email, and mail, and provide tips and tricks for selecting the best word.
Is It E-mail or Email or Mail?
Email and e-mail both refer to electronic mail, while mail refers to a physical letter or parcel sent by post. So which is the correct word to use in your writing?
When to Use Email
Email is a closed compound word, which is a compound word without punctuation or spaces.
Writing email without a hyphen is becoming more common and widely accepted. For example, the AP Style Guide, adopted by big publications like The New York Times and The Huffington Post, only accepts this spelling.
When to Use E-mail
E-mail is a compound noun where the E stands for electronic, like in e-book, e-learning, and e-commerce. The hyphen signifies that two words have been merged: electronic and mail.
Writing e-mail with a hyphen is the preferred method of spelling for formal documents, such as college assignments and business reports. It is also the required spelling for many popular style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style.
If you aren’t sure which spelling to use, e-mail or email, refer to your style guide or opt for the hyphenated version. Most people accept that this spelling is correct, whereas only some accept the version without the hyphen.
When to Use Mail
You should use mail when referring to anything that is sent by post, such as parcels and letters. Mail is sometimes used informally to refer to electronic messaging, but it is best to avoid using it in this context, as readers may misunderstand you.
Is It a Email or an Email?
We use the article “a” before words that begin with a consonant. We use the article “an” before words that start with a vowel.
The letter E is a vowel, so the word email should be preceded by “an” instead of “a.” For example:
- Did you send an email to Michael to let him know we canceled tomorrow’s meeting?
- I haven’t received an email for almost three days. I wonder if something has gone wrong.
Is Email Capitalized?
Email is a common noun, just like beach and hockey stick. You should only capitalize common nouns if they appear at the beginning of a sentence. If they appear anywhere else in the sentence, they should be lowercase. For example,
- I don’t normally check my emails on the weekend.
- Email is my least favorite form of communication.
- The last time I emailed Daniel, he didn’t reply for almost three weeks.
Tips for Remembering the Difference Between Email or Mail
An easy trick to remember the difference between email and mail is to remember that the E stands for electronic. If you are referring to an electronic letter, use email. If you are referring to a physical letter, use mail.
Always remember to follow your style guide when deciding which spelling of email to use, and if you don’t have a specific style guide, just keep your spelling consistent.
ProWritingAid’s Consistency Check can help with this. It will highlight any hyphenation inconsistencies, along with spelling and capitalization inconsistencies.