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Esports, or esports, or e-sports, or eSports: Words Matter for More Reasons than You Think

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By Dr. Vandy Pacetti-Donelson |

It is Friday afternoon and a student has entered my office with a dilemma that could have implications for the indexing of his dissertation.  He is uncertain how to spell a word.  It seems trivial, but from my perspective as a librarian, this is an important question.  Since access to dissertations are stored in databases for retrieval by researchers, it is incumbent upon the writer to pick the most appropriate spelling of a term so that his writing will be discoverable in the body of knowledge by other researchers interested in the same topic.

We are talking about electronic sports, or eSports, or e-sports, or Esports. According to the Online Gamers Association (OGA), the first recorded instance of the term was “eSports” in a 1999 press release.

Questions about the spelling of esports can be seen across the internet. This question has made numerous appearances on Reddit, an American social news aggregator that offers content rating and discussion.  Many posters, including esports enthusiasts, writers, and others made arguments for the correct spelling.  The overwhelming responses indicated that the spelling was “eSports”. Some commenters clarified that e-sports is short for electronic sports, but like “e-mail” eventually the hyphen of “e-mail” disappeared to just email and so, “e-sports” should be just “esports”.

Other posters sought to validate a spelling with socially sourced sites like English Wikipedia, which had switched from “Electronic Sports” to “Esports”, and the German Wikipedia, which was using “e-Sports”. Some posters attempted to confirm the spelling on pages of companies associated with esports. At the time, “eSports” was confirmed on several webpages associated with the field–Twitch, Call of Duty, TheScore, IBTimes, Blizzard, and Slasher, to name a few.

In 2017, the Associated Press seemingly squashed the debate at the 2017 American Copy Editors Society Convention in St. Petersburg, Fla.  The AP indicated for the AP Style Guide, the correct spelling is “esports” due to “industry trends and general usage” and capitalized as “Esports” if used at the beginning of a sentence.  The decision was based on Google Trends results that indicated people searched more often for esports without a hyphen or capital letters. 

Despite the Associated Press Style Committee’s ruling to indicate the proper spelling, there is still much speculation about the spelling.  Federico Winer, in a D!gitalist Magazine article, reported that there is still much inconsistency among news agencies.  Winer did note that among scholarly publications the preference was for esports/eSports/Esports without a hyphen.  Since Google Scholar does not differentiate between letter case, he did not make a study of which capitalization strategy was preferred, but it seems clear, the hyphen is out in scholarly circles.  Dissertation writers plan your titles and keywords accordingly.

References

Winer, F. (27 Mar 2019). Esports: How the term was coined and what is the correct way to write it? D!gitalist Magazine  Accessed https://www.digitalistmag.com/customer-experience/2019/03/27/esports-how-term-was-coined-what-is-correct-way-to-write-it-06197363

Dr. Vandy Pacetti-Donelson is the Director of the Library/Archivist at the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Ala.

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