The Debate that Divides Us: Is it ‘E-Discovery’ or ‘Ediscovery’?

When the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook announced last week that they were changing AP style from “e-mail” to “email,” the Twitter-verse erupted. So deafening were the tweets in response to the dropped hypen that longtime copy editor John McIntyre could not resist poking fun, writing at his blog, You Don’t Say, that the “momentous” change had caused the nation to grind to a halt.

Factories suspended production. Police and fire departments called in employees on overtime. Members of the Cabinet were summoned to the White House. Knots of anxious civilians gathered in the streets to speculate worriedly on the decisions about to be handed down. Some ducked into bars for fortification.

The AP Stylebook is used as a style guide not just by AP, but across many occupations and industries. No doubt, many people who rely on it will sleep more soundly now, not having to worry about whether email is better delivered with or without the hyphen.

Sadly, those who work in the electronic discovery field are not so blessed. The profession is torn asunder by a style debate every bit as momentous as the one that long roiled over email. And like the email debate, it even implicates the hyphen.

To Hyphenate or Not

Boiled down to its essence, the debate is this: Is it “e-discovery” or “ediscovery”? To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

The battle lines already are drawn. In the “e-discovery” camp, we find The Sedona ConferenceRalph Losey, Craig BallThe Posse ListThe New York Times, K&L GatesPerry Segal, to name a few. Over on the hyphen-less “ediscovery” side, we find eDiscovery Journal, Rob RobinsonDelaware eDiscovery Report, Hinshaw & Culbertson, and eDiscovery News, among others.

And then there is Michael Arkfeld. If there is a Switzerland in the war between e-discovery and ediscovery, it is he, as he varies in his usage, seemingly as comfortable with one as with the other.

Here at Catalyst, we’ve planted our flag on the side of the hyphen. We did not choose sides, however, without first engaging in a lively debate. What finally put us firmly on the “e-discovery” side was a simple exercise in democracy, with the ballots cast by Google search:

  • Search “e-discovery” and get 22.2 million results.
  • Search “ediscovery” and get 784,000 results.

Google spoke and we listened. But the industry remains divided.

What the field of electronic discovery needs is a final arbiter of this debate, just as the AP Stylebook put to rest the debate over email. Perhaps The Sedona Conference could step in, appointing a special blue ribbon working group to study the issue, and, as it did with its Cooperation Proclamation, issuing a “Punctuation Proclamation.”

If only the electronic discovery industry could agree on a standard for hyphenation, it could then turn to more pressing matters — such as why the British insist on calling it “e-disclosure.”


About Bob Ambrogi

A lawyer and veteran legal journalist, Bob advises Catalyst on strategic communications and marketing matters. He is also a practicing lawyer in Massachusetts and is the former editor-in-chief of The National Law Journal, Lawyers USA and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. A fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, he also writes the blog LawSites.

6 thoughts on “The Debate that Divides Us: Is it ‘E-Discovery’ or ‘Ediscovery’?

  1. JIm Parrish

    In manner grammar context hyphenated words are adjectives or adverbs. My suggestion is that if using as an adjective – Joe defined an e-discovery process – use hyphen. When used as a noun – Let’s talk about ediscovery – no hyphen.

  2. Mike Taylor

    We call it edisclosure / e-disclosure because we don’t have a process of discovery…..if I understand it correctly the US system relies on requests for the “discovery” of documents by opposing parties. In the UK parties are under a duty to “disclose” documents within their control to the other party. I wouldn’t “discover” a document to someone else, but I would disclose it….

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