I’d like to talk about a bee that’s gotten into my bonnet. I’ve been writing about education technology for three years, and in that time, a question seems to be buzzing in the background; one that everyone seems to be afraid to ask.

Maybe because it’s the sort of thing we feel like we should already know. Maybe we’re afraid we somehow missed an essential definition by a tech guru on an important blog. Maybe we don’t want to ask, for fear of looking stupid.

But let’s just go for it, guys, okay? No judgment.

Is it edtech or ed-tech?

There are a lot of ways to shorten educational technology: edtech, ed-tech, ed tech, EdTech. I’ve experimented with all of them at one time or another. But which is it? What’s the rule?

The short answer is that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to a new compound word. The long answer? Well, let’s dig in.

What do the stylebooks say?

The two big stylebooks, Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook, don’t have rules about specific compound words like edtech. And they probably won’t, until edtech (ed-tech?) stops being jargon, and enters common usage, as it seems poised to do.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s online forum, however, did address this specific question. The forum (which is subscriber only, although you can read quite a bit of the discussion in the Chicago search results) suggests that ed tech should be spelled out on first reference, and then two words thereafter: ed tech.

Other commenters on that thread weighed in as well, saying that the accepted spelling should be taken from magazines, trade publications, and blogs.

And that’s how stylebooks tend to work: whatever the accepted spelling seems to be, that’s what it actually is.

What are all the cool kids using?

Here is my extremely scientific survey of trade magazines, blogs and industry groups:

  • Campus Technology uses two words — ed tech — although just as often it uses “educational technology” in the body of its articles rather than shortening it.
  • EdTech Magazine uses “ed tech” (despite its name.)
  • Inside Higher Ed uses both “edtech” and ed tech, depending on the writer.
  • Wired uses “edtech.”
  • Techcrunch appears to be using “edtech.”
  • e-Literate, the educational technology blog run by Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein, uses both one and two words, but I’m seeing more “ed tech” than “edtech.”
  • EdSurge appears to favor “edtech.”
  • The Online Learning Consortium is using “edtech.”
  • The Gates Foundation has used “edtech,” “ed tech” and “ed-tech” on its sites.

There’s not a clear winner, but we can see one thing: none of the industry groups are really using “ed-tech.”

Step away from the hyphen.

This move away from the hyphen and toward a closed compound is pretty representative of both the big stylebooks, Chicago and AP (which states “the fewer hyphens, the better”). For an editor adhering to either book, a hyphen is something that should be used only when an unhyphenated word might be misread.

And then there’s the fact that American English speakers do tend to love closed compounds, like online (which, long ago, was once written “on-line”) or Kimye.

This affection for closed compounds, and the fact that industry groups like EdSurge and the Online Learning Consortium are using “edtech” in their materials, and the rise of other kinds of tech (fintech, salestech, martech, healthtech) makes me believe that we’re headed for a one-word edtech.

Let’s face it, if educators and developers are consistently using “edtech,” the publications that cover them will follow suit.

So, one word or two?

Unless you really love hyphens, or your branding uses it a lot already, I would steer clear of “ed-tech.”

If you are an adherent of Chicago or AP Style, or just don’t like that your spellcheck app gets salty when you use “edtech,” you might want to use “ed tech.”

I think “edtech” will age better, however. It also preserves keystrokes, which is helpful when you’re sharing your content on social media, or want a headline to be read more clearly.

A lot of this will come down to your brand’s internal style guide.

Don’t have a style guide?

Don’t worry. I will get into style guides and why your edtech company needs one in a future post.

In the meantime, if you need help developing a style guide, contact me. My job is to help you develop great content, and a style guide is part of that process!

Want to read more about edtech terminology? Check out my piece about the blurry definition of personalized learning in Campus Technology.