Overuse of E generating more amusement and fatigue than enlightenment.

E-nough, already!

by Neil Lowe Jizzem
© Information Disciplines, Inc., Chicago -- 15 April, 2000

NOTE: This document may be circulated or quoted from freely, as long as the copyright credit is included.

In a recent issue of a respected trade journal, I tallied 18 different words with the E or e prefix. In addition to the expected E-commerce and E-business were such oddities as E-strategy, E-component, and E-marketplace. By the time I got to the end I was laughing too hard to appreciate whatever message the authors of those articles had tried to convey.

The grand prize so far goes to E-automation, heard at a recent vendor's presentation. I suppose that's an impressive leap forward from the old-fashioned manual automation we grew up with.

Creative coinages serve a valuable role in enriching our language, but only when they add some new shade of meaning or when they're significantly more concise than equivalent established terms. None of these new terms meets those criteria. The E is either equivalent to or less precise than one or more of these adjectives:

  • online
  • automatic (or automated)
  • web-based
  • Internet

And if none of those fits, what's wrong with electronic? True, it's a little longer, but it sounds a lot more businesslike and it doesn't upset our spelling checkers.

With the sole exception of E-mail the E prefix has been banned from this web site, except where no suitable equivalent term already exists. We hope that more periodical editors will adopt this policy.

2010 & 2011 Update

Since the accompanying article appeared a decade ago, the trend has continued. I just received a thick catalog from the publisher IGI Global that contained the following terms just in the titles of its books:
  • E-Business
  • E-Services
  • E-Novation
  • E-Entrepreneurship
  • E-Branding
  • E-Commerce
  • E-Procurement
  • E-Learning
  • E-Infrasructures
  • E-Teaching
  • E-Justice
  • E-Readiness
  • E-Simulations
  • E-Leadership
  • E-Government
  • E-Agriculture
  • E-Participation
  • E-Planning
  • E-Strategies
  • E-Health
  • E-Transformation
  • E-Collaboration
  • E-Dating
  • E-Banking
  • E-Activity
  • E-Parliament
  • E-Reference
  • E-Healthcare
I'm not making this up.   —Conrad Weisert

Last Modified (Updated) October 1, 2011

Return to Business and culture articles