Why the Associated Press Stylebook went with esports, not eSports


The Associated Press has settled the debate: It's "esports," with no hyphen.

It's "esports" folks, not "e-sports" or "eSports," and that's final.

In case you missed it, The Associated Press has weighed in on how exactly to spell the term we use to describe League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, etc. The AP officially gave "esports" an entry in the latest edition of its stylebook -- yet another sign of progress as esports moves closer to the mainstream.

"We've had editors around the country ask us for a ruling on esports and rightfully pointing out that we were using several different styles in our own copy," said Oskar Garcia, assistant sports editor at the AP. "They just wanted to know what was the right move."

Garcia is one of six members of the AP's style committee. The committee meets via phone once a week, and sometimes more frequently, to discuss and make decisions about style issues.

The increasing popularity and coverage of esports led to the committee's discussion of the term at a recent meeting.

"When we changed 'email' a few years ago to drop the hyphen there, we put in this little rule that other 'e' terms should be hyphenated -- e-commerce, e-business, go on down the line," Garcia said. "But then since there was such interest in esports, and esports is a topic that more and more people are writing about, we thought esports should have its own entry [in the stylebook]. So once we decided that esports was going to have its own entry, we had to decide, do we want the hyphen? Do we not want the hyphen? Or do we want the capitalized 'S'?"

It was not an easy decision. "We really got into the debate," Garcia said. "It was a tough one. We were doing other things at the time, and it's so funny how one little hyphen can just spark a lot of debate -- whereas for other, harder topics we were more or less on the same page."

Several committee members were leaning toward using the hyphen at first, as opposed to creating another exception to their rule, as with "email." But feelings changed over time.

"The thing that iced it for me, and I think convinced a lot of the other committee members, was when we looked at Google Trends results and saw that people were searching for 'esports' without the hyphen at a rate of like 30 to 1 over 'e-sports' with a hyphen," Garcia said. "At the end of the day it's about clarity for the readers, and the readers are telling us they don't search for it with the hyphen."

That didn't seal the deal, however. Some committee members still needed to be convinced.

"We had some fun conversations," Garcia said. "Some people felt like 'esports' looked like the word 'escorts.' And I joked, 'Do we not use the terms "persecute" or "prosecute" because it sounds like "prostitute"?' There's just all kinds of words like that."

All jokes aside, the debate is now over -- both in terms of The Associated Press and the general public, or so it seems. It's official -- "esports" is part of the AP Stylebook, and the wider sports lexicon.

"I haven't heard any criticism of it," Garcia said. "Universally what we've heard is that we made the right call on that, and a lot of industry folks just appreciate that it's settled, and that they can move on to more important things -- like figuring out how to actually cover esports, which we're still figuring out how to do ourselves."

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