The big debate – how do you spell elearning?

The elearning sector is growing rapidly, yet the more it grows, the more variations of spelling people use.

The word email started off as ‘e-mail’, will the same happen to elearning as time goes by?

Email google search

Here’s our exploration of the word elearning, and why WE spell it this way.

Firstly, what is elearning?

Elearning refers to learning through a digital device. Whether that be through a computer, tablet, or phone; it’s anything away from your usual face-to-face classroom learning. Elearning today has advanced so much, we’re now using huge technology such as VR, AI and AR. However, elearning can be as basic as watching a video to playing games. The industry has come on in leaps and bounds to what we have today and revolutionised the way we learn.

Why do we spell it the way we do?

We use the spelling elearning because of how the word email has adapted over time. As technology is evolving and the world is becoming more digitised, does it need to be pointed out that something is electronic, aren’t most things these days?

As Mark Ritson states:

It has become harder and harder to isolate exactly what isn’t digital any more.

From newspapers to television and everything in between, so much of our information is delivered digitally these days – we are almost a completely digital world.

However, the spelling e-learning is still largely used.

So, should the hyphen go?

According to the oxford dictionary compound adjectives should be hyphenated. In more simple terms, compound adjectives are words that use an adjective (electronic) and a noun (learning). So, technically, e-learning is the correct spelling. However, as mentioned above, as email became more popular the hyphen eventually disappeared.

Some people may argue that everything isn’t yet electronic and so the hyphen should stay, in our opinion most things are so we don’t need to accentuate it. However, it could be that elearning isn’t as popular as we think yet, and as time goes on the hyphen will be dropped, just like the word email.

Where do we capitalise?

To mix up the debate, there are more spellings – this time it’s all to do with capital letters. Is it Elearning, ELearning or eLearning? We did some research on the interest of each spelling on Google, here’s what we found:

elearning trends google search

Elearning google trends

Numbers on the chart represent search interest, with the maximum number being 100. As we can see over the past 12 months Elearning, eLearning and Elearning have all had the same interest. Whereas e-learning has been particularly low. This could answer the question of getting rid of the hyphen, it’s clear that not very many use the spelling e-learning.

Is the elearning industry becoming more popular and that’s the reason the hyphen is slowly disappearing? Or is it faster and easier to type elearning? With the internet being accessible on mobiles, most of us quickly use them to search. However, when typing on a mobile you have to switch keyboards to get the hyphen.

Nonetheless, these trends don’t settle the debate on whether to capitalise mid-word. This spelling debate on the eLearning industry, focused on whether or not to hyphenate and didn’t really explain why eLearning was preferred.

Some use eLearning, even if it is the start of a sentence. However, the general rule is that a sentence should always start with a capital letter. says this rule applies even to brand names that start with a lowercase letter.

If a trademark starts with a lowercase word or letter (e.g., eBay, iPhone), many authorities advise capitalizing it to begin a sentence.
Example: EBay opened strong in trading today.

The ongoing debate

The elearning spelling debate is not new. The folks at wrote a piece on it back in 2016. Like us, they settled on elearning because it fit their house style, taking email as the basis and logic.

In another online debate, over 5 years old, the general consensus was to simply pick a style and stick to it. Though one commentator pointed out that a small e indicates the method of delivery and a capital L points to what is being achieved.

Interestingly, back then elearning without the hyphen was far behind e-learning in terms of searches. Perhaps, with the increase of mobile searches, switching to the symbols keyboard to insert a hyphen is one step too many: why switch keyboards for e-learning when elearning will do?

In spite of that, the debate could probably go on, so what do you think? How do you spell the word elearning and why?

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