• 3-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 Noun

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 noun, a word that names a unique thing. So ‘the Internet’ is like the name of a person (e.g. Delia) or city (e.g. Norwich).

Using the 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 lowercase ‘i’ instead.

Dialect can make a difference, too, as capitalizing ‘Internet’ is more common in American English than British English. Ultimately, though, it is a matter of 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 university/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’ as an adjective.

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 noun.

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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’ as 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 Capitalise Internet?

You can capitalize the ‘i’ in ‘internet’ if you use it as a proper noun, but this is a matter of choice. At Proofed, for example, we prefer ‘internet’. But this is 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’. 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.
  • 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 (18)
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.
    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.
    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.
      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 :/
      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.
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.
    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).
Oli Bautista
19th November 2021 at 08:08
But the convention in the early years was to capitalize the "Internet." Why or how was that changed?
    19th November 2021 at 10:13
    Hi, Oli. As outlined in the post, "Internet" is still commonly capitalized, especially in American English, reflecting its original status as a proper noun. However, as the word has entered widespread generic usage, there has been a trend toward dropping the capital "I," and most major style guides have adopted this convention in recent years (e.g., the AP Stylebook started recommending "internet" in 2016; CMoS adopted it in 2017; and the APA adopted it in 2019). Different organizations have different reasons for adopting the change, but it typically comes down to wanting to reflect common usage. It's worth noting that this isn't uncommon. Many words start out as either proper nouns or as based on proper nouns, and are capitalized accordingly, only to lose their capitalization as they enter common usage. This is especially common with modifiers that are based on proper nouns, such as "anglicize," "roman" in "roman numeral" or "roman script," "platonic," "bohemian," and many others. "Internet" is a bit more unusual in being a noun that entered into common usage, but we often see the same things with brand names that gain widespread usage (e.g., many people will now write "frisbee" without a capital letter at the start, even though it is technically a brand name).
William Perry George
30th April 2022 at 17:29
I'd like to mention the pleasure it is to encounter a website in which both the questions and the answers are clear, well pondered, thought through. I'm impressed, this looks like a very useful site (or did I just strike lucky?)
    2nd May 2022 at 09:05
    Thank you, William! We hope you continue to find the site useful. And if there's anything you'd like to see covered on our blog that isn't currently there, do feel free to drop us an email and let us know.
    Trent Robertson
    9th December 2022 at 00:31
    I would second that. Well run, solid responses and a collaborative and humble approach to refinement of the content. Thank you!
      11th December 2022 at 12:43
      Hi, Trent. Thank you for your lovely comment! You’re most welcome. We’re adding new articles all the time, but if there’s something in particular you’d like to see covered, as mentioned above, we're always happy to receive suggestions by email.
23rd January 2023 at 20:46
Excellent article, Proofed. It answered my question related to writing style as I use this term (just once) in something I've written, and I want it to be as timeless as possible. That said, which of these three terms do you think is best for referring to more-or-less the same idea: (1) "internet age", (2) "computer age", or (3) "information age"? Which term would have been most appropriate back in the mid-90s? Thanks for any help.
    27th January 2023 at 11:21
    Thanks, Coolidge. I’m glad you found it helpful. “Information age” and “computer age” are used for the period from the mid-20th century when there was a shift from traditional industrial production to that based on information technology and computerization. “Internet age” loosely refers to the 21st century where an enormous amount of information travels around the world in seconds and is widely available. I hope this helps to answer your question!
24th February 2023 at 22:57
Hi. Usually an "interconnected-network", which is not the whole of the "The Internet", is referred to as just a network, or server, or even an intranet, etc. Just a thought that might help explain things, as I don't recall many times the word internet is used when referring to a smaller network. Thank you.
    4th March 2023 at 13:32
    Nice point, Nicholas. I think people tend to use “internet” very generally in all sorts of contexts now but that’s good to know!

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