Did you know Google keyboard autocorrect “esports” to “eSports”? So does that mean you spell esports as “eSports”? Then why does the r/esports subreddit have a bot yelling at you if you spell esports any other way than “esports”? How does one simply be wrong or right when it comes to spelling, especially new words in English?
I’ve seen esports, eSports, ESports, e-sports, e-Sports, E-sports, esport, eSport and that tilted League of Legends player who spams eSpOrTs. Why does such a similar word have so many variations, is there a way for us to determine what’s wrong and what’s right?
It turns out there are people who decide what is right and what is wrong as far as the American English language goes (and as a Canadian, I’m silently obedient to my American overlords…. you think I’m joking?). So what was the verdict?
The correct way to write esports is “esports”, established by the AP Style Guide. The first publication wrote it as “eSports” in 1999 by OGA, but as of 2017 it has been finalized as “esports”. American writing of “esports” cannot be hyphenated and it must be capitalized at the start of a sentence.
With that, you may still be wondering “why do people spell esports differently”? In this article, we will breakdown the origin of the different ways of writing esports, where disagreements came from and how the AP Style Guide concluded “esports” without a capital ‘S’ or hyphen in between.
Why Are There Different Ways to Write Esports
There are debates on which tournament was truly the first esports tournament, but we can fairly conclude it was in 1972 and the disputed game is “Intergalactic Spacewar!”. Back then, it wasn’t even called esports, rather a “gaming tournament”. This really goes to show how new the entire esports industry is.
These were the types of computers used to play Spacewar! in the 1970s.
The worldwide web truly came to be in the 1990s, back during the start of the digital revolution. What came with that was the pairing of electronic items that used to be done physically. eMail is a great example of this, a world where the ‘e’ represents electronic while it’s referring to mail, something we have a non-digital adaptation of. We see that with eCards, eBoard, etc.
In 1999, the Online Gamers Association (OGA) was the first online publication to refer to the word, and they wrote it as “eSports”, meaning electronic sports. The world didn’t fully grasp why the site even was a thing, take for example what Euro Gamer said in 1999 about the publication:
“Just as the PGA represents golfers, the OGA is intended to represent professional gamers, to promote this new ‘sport’, to encourage better sportsmanship in the community, and to stamp out cheating.”
It’s hard to even imagine a gaming-oriented site using such loose terminology to describe esports in such a way. As the years went on, worlds like “eMail” became “email” and “e-mail” based on preference (although email is dominant and more widely accepted, and “eMail” is now out of the question), while other words like “eCards” have remained “eCards” to clearly communicate that an eCard is exactly that, an electronic card.
Fast forward to 2013, Valve’s The International event took the developed world by storm with their massive $1.4 million prizing for first place and $2.8 million total prizing due to their crowdfunding model, a number that is significantly smaller to The International’s now $34 million+ pool (and growing each year as the largest prize pool in esports). The fact of a ‘gamer’ was earning $1 million was just ground-breaking at the time. It was truly one of the major catalysts to mainstream esports as an industry and intrigue non gamers to look at the industry seriously.
The issue the community faced was the various spellings of the word “eSports”, as there were disputes on if esports should be a word on its own, should it represent “electronic sports”, do we need to include an ‘s’ at the end? Especially in mainstream media, many arguments about the issue arose. This likely was because the community of gamers are so passionate about how they are represented and they don’t want to be incorrectly represented in the media by a butchering the word.
As a result, the Associated Press Stylebook (also known as the AP Style Guide) reflects the decision that and has been like that since 2017. As of that point. the word is officially spelt “esports” or “Esports” when it’s the first word in a sentence or in a title.
As much as I’d like this to be a one-and-done situation, the damage in the community is still present, with individuals still writing “e-sports”, companies having esports misspelt and even the r/esports subreddit’s bot yells at everyone for slightly misspelling the word (sheesh, why does it have to be so harsh).
There are actually more behind the scenes to why some individuals spell esports as “e-sports” and why it’s actually proper in their circumstances. As much as we’d like the see America as a world leader, the AP Style Guide is reflective only on American English and not international languages, we will dive more into this below. As far as businesses with the incorrectly spelt esports in their name, we will break that down further below as well.
How Esports is Written in Different Countries
Up to this point, we went over the history of how the word esports came to be and how we finalized on that spelling and who finalized it. The America’s AP Style Guide, however, is not an international body that regulates English. In fact, American English has differences with Britain English, and even Canadian English (“endeavour” vs “endeavor”, “colour” vs “color”). The question still remains is how the rest of the world writes “esports”.
I can confidently say that every country that doesn’t use Latin alphabets will say and spell “esports”. This is largely because of America’s English having such a strong dominance in the overall world over other English, and the AP Style Guide has really been hard promoted with the esports scene.
Other countries that use English widely abide by America’s pickings as well. Canadian English uses the word “esports” exactly as the Americans do.
The same applies to the United Kingdom’s English, although I do see many instances online of the reference to “esport”. However, prominent organizations within the UK such as the British Esports Association include the ending ‘s’ into esports and it seems like it is becoming more widely accepted as “esports” over “esport”.
What gets tricky is when other countries using the Latin alphabets have words like esports utilized for another word. A major example of this is the Portuguese word for sports. The word is “Esporte” which is evidently very similar to “esports”. The word “esport” can also be roughly translated to the Portuguese word for sports which makes it a problem to write it according to the AP Style Guide.
So, for Brazil and Portuguese speakers, they all widely use the word “e-sports” hyphenated because they need to differentiate it. That doesn’t mean that in the future Portuguese cannot incorporate “esports” as the official word for esports as it becomes more mainstream in countries like Brazil, but until then you can expect them to use a hyphen in conversations.
For some time, the German Wikipedia formally referred to the word as “e-Sports” in an attempt on having that as the formal writing form of the world. However since then, Germany and its organizations involved in esports refer to the word as “esports”. Take Unicorns of Love for example, a widely known German esports team, they repeatedly refer to esports as “esports”
As you can see, Unicorns of Love have written “esports” on their Twitter bio instead of “esport”.
As far as I’m aware, that is the extent of the variations in the word “esports”. Since we have businesses, books and other literatures leveraging all forms of this word until 2017, we need to acknowledge that it will take time for the whole world to adopt “esports” as the official word, and each year we should see more and more people following that principle.
What if a Business Wrote Esports the Wrong Way
This is a very common complaint amongst esports enthusiasts about certain companies and their names following old naming exceptions to esports. ESL in of itself stands for Electronic Sports League, and they are just fortunate to not have adopted “eSL” (that would have been hideous).
You may wonder if businesses need to legally change their name if they misspelt esports, but the reality is that they don’t. Naming has that unique ability to transcend common language practices. Take for example the “iPhone”. Why isn’t anyone complaining that it’s not called “Internet Phone” or “Inspire Phone” as those are 2 words which the ‘i’ in iPhone represents? Why couldn’t it at least be “Iphone” or “IPhone”, why “iPhone”?
This was just a nifty photo I found about Steve Jobs explaining the ‘i’ in “iPhone”.
You probably guessed it by now, it’s a name, it transcends normal English practices. They choose to call it the “iPhone” so that’s official what it’s called in all Latin languages. Likewise, the game “eSports Boxing Club” can remain as such, it’s simply a name.
There are countless books that use varying name titles (most of which were published before 2017). You have “OpTic Gaming: The Making of eSports Champions” (again, why does OpTic have a capital ‘T’? Because it’s how the name was formed), “ESports: The Ultimate Gamer’s Guide”, etc.
The book publishers don’t need to go back and change the name, although sure it didn’t age well, but it’s just another fragment of the history of esports. We don’t need to erase history simply because we don’t like it, in fact it’s nice to see how names for esports were widely different back then.
Last example I’ll give is this website, “Esport How”. I too was someone who assumed that the word “Esport” was okay. I was well aware of “Esports” and preferred that name over “Esport”, but I was concerned with the domain name being confused with “Esport Show”.
Now I know better and even own the “esportshow.com” domain (that is now just a redirect link), so I could change the name over. After much consideration, I too believe that although it’s no longer accepted as its word, the name transcends the English language and I don’t want to change a fun little tidbit of our history (even if so many people call us “Esports How” 😭).
Love it or hate it, “esports” is concretely the official way to say “esports” in American English and has already dominated most of the global scene with that way of writing it. That said, don’t be that one guy that has to correct everyone every time someone misspells it (I’m looking at you r/esports bot, stop yelling at me please!).
Changes like these take time, a friendly reminder once in a while surely doesn’t hurt. In the end, esports has only started to see growth within the developed world, there will be many more ups and downs along the way (hopefully a lot more ups than downs). Be prepared to join the ride as esports further enters the mainstream and your dad starts saying “I like esport… I’m cool and hip…”.
That’s the end of my Ted Talk, you may proceed to yell at me for writing “Ted” instead of “TED”.