We occasionally get reader mail and, in fact, welcome input. It shows us that people read what we put in the magazine and sometimes get stirred up enough to write us. Today, we received one I wanted to address directly, since I don't believe I've ever discussed the topic here or in print.
Is it "fracking" or "fracing"? In the pages of National Driller, it's fracking. Before I explain why, here's what this reader told us:
You guys know better than this!!!!
There is no K in Frac, Frac Job, Fracing, Frac Tank, Frac Fluid, Frac Tracking, etc.
Please don't bow to the non-industry attempts to use their ignorance of our science and scientific techniques to co-opt everything that we have developed over decades!!
I would credit the reader, because I like to give credit where it's due, but the letter arrived unsigned. So, whoever you are, thanks for writing. I appreciate your input.
Now, on to the reasoning. There are a few things going on here: The first ties in to how English words are formed and the second to general popularity of use.
The first point is specific to how a word like fracking is built. I want to admit a bias, but it's not toward science or "non-industry" people trying to make the oil and gas industry look bad. My bias is toward the way words are constructed. A word can end with a hard c sound. In that way, we can spell the word frac, and it ends up sounding like everyone uses it — rhyming with track. If I only ever used frac, I would guess I'd be OK without the k at the end. But, most often, people use the word in its present participle form, with ing on the end.
The present participle of words that end in c is formed by adding a k and then ing. So, mimic becomes mimicking and picnic becomes picnicking and frac becomes fracking. That's the first problem for me, the present participle. It's not a small problem, since that's the form of the word most used. The word demands the k in the middle of it to keep the hard c sound.
The second point has to do with the popularity of the different spellings of the word: frac vs. frack. Editors usually prefer the most common use of a word, in cases where there are various spellings. This is a great example. For this, I defer to Google, because it's a reflection people across countries, professions, industries and the world. In Google's searches, the spelling frack is 24 times more popular than frac. That's not just me. That's the world, which definitely includes scientists and geologists inside and outside the industry, tool-pushers and rig hands, and — to be fair — a lot of people opposed to fracking (regardless of whether it has a k in it or not).
Like I said, this was a close call for me. Ultimately, I chose to go with frack and fracking as the way we refer to the practice in this magazine. We needed to go with the k because the present participle doesn't make sense to me without it, and because only about 5 percent of the searches online regarding hydraulic fracturing use the term without the k.
It's my job to get my magazine read. If you prefer frac and fracing, I understand. But using those spellings won't get my stories read on the web when people search for frack and fracking.
Bottom line: We do know better at National Driller. We know words and we know spreading the word about the interesting jobs and people in the drilling trades. If people outside the industry with questions about hydraulic fracturing search for fracking and find us, they just might learn something. To me, that's worth putting up with the occasional k, even if you don't like it.
Thoughts? Rants? Send me an email.
Stay safe out there, drillers.