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Almost 18 months ago now, I wrote about my growing fascination with elearning in this post: The E-learning Explosion .  The shortened version of electronic learning, it opens up a wonderful world of possibilities for learners of all ages worldwide.

This is a topic which I’m increasingly interested in, particularly now that since September last year, I have also been lecturing at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, and can make a clear comparison between “traditional” teaching methods and the benefits of incorporating elearning.  There are alternative phrases being used for the same concept including “online learning” but elearning resonates more with me.

I’m finding though, that as I write more about this topic, I’m having trouble deciding exactly how to write the word itself.  There seem to be a variety of versions out there, including:

  • E-learning
  • e-learning
  • elearning
  • e-Learning

I found this interesting post discussing this very topic over on E-Learning HeroesScreen Shot 2015-05-25 at 10.06.08The three points I find more important are:

1.  There is no real consensus

Like many new digital words being added regularly to our language, there is no real consensus, particularly early on.  The main sources I’ve checked so far are:

  • Wikipedia: goes with E-learning in the title and e-learning in general text, though the Dutch version uses E-learning, e-learning and e-Learning in the same article!.
  • Oxford Dictionaries: uses e-learning (though you can search with elearning and email doesn’t use a hyphen, see point below) and to start a sentence would be E-learning.
  • Google: Bizarrely, if you type in “e-learning”, you will get 303,000,000 results (at least in which is my default), but if you change this to simply “elearning”, you will get 33,300,000 however still have the top results showing with the “e-learning” hyphen included.
  • WordPress Spell Check: while I’m typing this article, it’s ok with e-learning but not elearning.  It marks “elearning” as incorrect or tries to change it to simply “learning” or even “clearing” or “relearning”
  • Style Guides: The Economist Style Guide and Guardian and Observer Style Guides don’t seem to include it at all

Interestingly enough, this website in The Netherlands (where I am based), uses as their website, and their description calls it the e-learning portal, but their logo is

This website – eLearning Industry – seems to consistently use eLearning, as does the eLearning Guild – who share details about M-learning (mobile learning), which has the same issue of how exactly to write it!

2.  It can change as the word becomes more familiar

Think about “email” – this used to be written as e-mail, but is now much more common to see simply as one word and in fact is listed in most dictionaries and spell checks as simply “email”.

Words like ecommerce and enewsletter are facing the same issues.  This article is interesting: It’s Definitely Time to Drop The Hyphen from Ecommerce

3. Choose one and be consistent

So the one I have decided to go with from now on is “elearning”.  Why?  Well, as above, though currently written regularly with a hyphen, I think it is likely in the future, like email, to drop this.  Also online, I believe people are less likely to always type in the “-“.

Finally, I am a social media trainer who talks about the importance of hashtags.  In a hashtag, this whole discussion is easy to decide on – hyphens and capitals disappear and it simply becomes #elearning.  So in this case, if I regularly use elearning in my writing, it will be consistent with when I use #elearning.

At the beginning of a sentence, or in a title, I would then use “Elearning”.

Funnily enough, it still doesn’t look exactly “right” to me yet but I’m also not totally comfortable with the alternatives either. So I’ll stick with this and see how I go!


What are your thoughts on this?  Please share in a comment below.