When Should I Capitalize “Internet”?
  • 4-minute read
  • 23rd April 2019

When Should I Capitalize “Internet”?

The question of whether to capitalize “internet” is controversial. It has even inspired its own Wikipedia article. But we’re here to make writing easy, so we’re going to ignore the controversies and set out the basics of when to capitalize “internet.”

Internet as a Proper Name

Unless it appears at the start of a sentence, you should only capitalize “Internet” when it is a noun. More specifically, you can capitalize it when referring to the Internet (i.e., the thing that hosts the World Wide Web).

Everything is connected now...
Everything is connected now…

Thus, “Internet” is a proper name, a word that names a unique thing. So “the Internet” is like the name of a person (e.g., Delia) or city (e.g., Boston).

Using a capital “I” was common in the early days of the Web, especially in technical writing. However, as the internet has become part of our lives, most people now write it with a lower-case “I” instead.

Dialect can make a difference, too, as capitalizing “Internet” is more common in American English than other dialects. Ultimately, though, it is a matter preference. For instance, both of these sentences are fine:

I looked up advice on the Internet.

The internet is full of contradictory advice.

The most important thing is consistency. So if you write “Internet” in one part of a document, you should use the same capitalization throughout. You may also want to check your school/college/employer’s style guide.

However, there are a couple of situations where you should never capitalize this term. We will look at each of the following below:

  • Using “internet” to refer to interconnected networks in general.
  • Using “internet” adjectivally (i.e., as a noun adjunct).

Internet as a Common Noun

The word “internet” is a contraction of “interconnected network.” We can therefore use it to describe any set of interconnecting networks. And when referring to interconnected networks in general, we do not capitalize “internet” because it is a common noun rather than a proper name.

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In other words, while the Internet is an internet, it is not the only possible internet! If you are involved with computers in your work or studies, then, you would not capitalize “internet” if you were using it in this generic sense.

However, in day-to-day life, “internet” almost always refers to the internet.

Adjectival Internets

We can also use “internet” like an adjective. For example:

My internet connection has dropped out again.

Here, the word “internet” modifies the noun “connection.” This means we’ve used it like an adjective (something known as a noun adjunct). Typically, when “internet” is used as a modifier like this, you do not need to capitalize it.

Summary: When Should I Capitalize Internet?

You can capitalize the “I” in “internet” if you are using it as a proper name, but this is a matter of choice. At Proofed, for example, we prefer “internet.” But this is just because we don’t see the need to capitalize it, not because “Internet” is wrong.

There are no hard and fast rules about capitalizing “internet,” then. However, if you want to capitalize it, keep the following in mind:

  • You can capitalize “Internet” when it refers to the infrastructure that hosts the World Wide Web, but this is a matter of choice.
  • Do not capitalize “internet” when using it as a noun adjunct to modify another noun (e.g., “internet users” or “internet browser”).
  • Do not capitalize this term when referring to internetworking in general.
  • If you are writing for your studies or job, you may have a style guide available. Check this for advice on capitalization of “internet.”
  • Make sure to apply capitalization consistently in your writing.

And if you’d like more help with your writing, you can have it proofread.

Comments (8)
Jim Hayward
21st August 2020 at 02:12
As I understand it, the internet is not same as the web. The web is one way of transferring information over the internet. FTP, gopher and other protocols use the same physical infrastructure (the internet) but different protocols to transfer the information.
    Proofed
    21st August 2020 at 09:54
    You are correct, Jim! We were using them interchangeably in a colloquial fashion, but we've made a couple of small changes to the post now that will hopefully make the distinction clearer.
Donald Griggs
2nd December 2020 at 14:13
Thanks for these articles. I have a suggestion, though. Might your website software include a published date on each article? Particularly with topics like this one, the date can make all the difference.
    Proofed
    2nd December 2020 at 14:25
    Thanks for the comment, Donald. Is there a particular reason you think the date would be relevant on this post? If something is unclear, we can always clarify it.
      Log
      15th January 2021 at 03:53
      I think he might want the date so he can cite you in a paper. That's what normally I look for when I write papers, but unfortunately there are so many articles that don't have a date :/
      Proofed
      15th January 2021 at 12:35
      If it is any help in the short term, you can usually cite web sources without a date (e.g., many systems suggest using "n.d." in place of a year if a source has no date). But will let the relevant people know that a date may be desirable for blog posts.
Edward
15th April 2021 at 09:22
"Internet" is always a noun, never an adjective, but English nouns can also be used to modify other nouns (c.f. "coffee cup"). "Internet" is never a proper noun--we can see this because it consistently takes the definite article: e.g. "Internet is very useful" reads as elliptical or wrong. "Internet" is therefore a common noun that was originally capitalized for extra-linguistic reasons (the newness of the category) which have faded over time.
    Proofed
    15th April 2021 at 14:22
    Hi, Edward. You are technically correct on the adjective front, so we've updated the post to include the technical term "noun adjunct," but keep in mind that we're focusing on usage here rather than jargon! Noun adjuncts function like adjectives, so it's helpful for most people to have the usage explained in these terms. On your second point, are you referring to the distinction between a strong and weak proper name? We'll update the terminology from "proper noun" to "proper name," too, in case that is clearer, but in terms of capitalization proper nouns and proper names are broadly the same, so it doesn't affect what we advise in the post (unless there's something in your comment we're missing, in which case please let us know).

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