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I've been doing some really basic copywriting for various books that I've seen on various reading lists and I occasionally refer readers to Amazon. Here's a simple example:

You can get a good audio version of it over on Amazon.

I've been going through my copy and proofreading it, and for some reason, the notion that using "at Amazon" is not correct and "on Amazon" is correct has entered my mind. Midway through this process of changing "at" to "on," I got to wondering if any style guides dictate which one is preferable and whether or not this applies to other media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, ...). I want to be consistent on this, and to be truthful neither one or the other sounds better to me, but I once heard a news broadcaster correct himself on television. It was Brett Baier and he seemed to be applying some sort of prescribed, dictated usage one time when he emphasized "on Twitter." He may have even added "not at Twitter." (It was a while back and I don't remember his precise choice of words or word order, but that's a good gist of what I heard.) It sounded as if he had been corrected by someone and was now applying what he had learned. I remembered this as I was going through my copy and changing all instances of "at Amazon" to "on Amazon." All of this made me curious, so I took some time to run a few combinations through Google's Ngram Viewer as well as Google's search engine. The images below show you what I discovered:

"on Amazon" 2x more popular than "at Amazon"; "on Twitter" steeply climbing 2007 to 2008 but "at Twitter" not found

In the charts below, the columns indicate the number of times more prevalent "on" is over "at" (although there is one exception and I comment on that).

The use of "on Twitter" is vastly more prevalent than "at Twitter." You see this most in total Google hits, followed by Google News hits, and then Google Book hits. The phrases "on Amazon" and "at Amazon" appear to be much more interchangeable than "on Twitter/at Twitter," especially in total searches of Google and Google Books. There does appear to be some preference for "on Amazon" in Google News hits.

When you take a look at the phrase "over on ..." vs. "over at ..." the use of "on" or "at" appears to be much more interchangeable for both Twitter and Amazon, but again this is more interchangeable for Amazon than for Twitter. This interchangeability appears to be pretty even across the board for Amazon except for searches via Google Books, (where, "over at Amazon" is actually 20 times more common ), but not nearly as much for Twitter, where, once again in Google News hits, you are far more likely to find "over on Twitter" rather than "over at Twitter."

This then makes sense why "over on Amazon" and "over at Amazon" sound equally as good to me ... they are being used virtually interchangeably and, in fact, "over at Amazon" may actually be more prevalent in some registers.

Anyone reading this may have come to the conclusion that I've answered my own question, but really what I am looking for is some sort of style guide that dictates the usage of one over the other. If I have some sort of authoritative guide that dictates one over the other, I will continue the somewhat tedious task of swapping out "at" for "on." Now knowing that at least informally, there appears to be some amount of interchangeability, to continue doing this without any formal guide prescribing one over the others seems rather silly, unnecessary, and unproductive. From the disparities of "on" over "at" via news searches, I have to assume that there must me some sort of proscription going on. Anyone happen to know?

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  • Search for a style guide seems like something that would be off-topic here...
    – Drew
    Aug 11, 2017 at 19:58

2 Answers 2

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This might be cleared up by using the terms in their less-used constructs and seeing how they sit with you.

Internet-based businesses, particularly e-commerce sites, have always been referred to using "on", just as you would use "on the internet" and never "at the internet". Businesses that have both an internet presence as well as brick-and-mortar outlets can be differentiated by the use of "at" for the physical store and "on" for the internet site. Ie., "You can get that at Best Buy" vs "you can get that on Best Buy". The listener immediately intuits that the former is the physical store and the latter is the online store. I suppose the use of "at" can get muddled at times, but "on" always refers to something online. You wouldn't say "hey, let's go get it on Best Buy" and then drive to a Best Buy. That would be confusing to whoever you happened to be with at the time. Use of "at" to refer to something online calls into question the speaker's astuteness and reeks of noobie-osity. It reminds me of former Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson when he often asked his guests (tongue in cheek) if they were "on the Twitter" - they would give a little deer-in-the-headlights look because they couldn't tell if he was seriously saying it that way or just toying with them. (It was just a part of his shtick.)

I might seem to be making more of this than really matters, even to me, but I know that it's just one of those things that makes my ears twitch - just a tiny bit. Just sayin'...

Edit - No sooner had I posted this, then on TV I noticed one commercial after another using "at" along with the full address. Ie. "Find it at xxxx.com", "Visit us at xxx.com". Mind you they were using "at" with the full address and not just "xxx". So here's an additional qualifier to what I stated earlier...

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  • I found your answer delightfully informative and funny. Your walking me through the sense of your logic really painted a very clear picture for me. I've watched Craig Ferguson numerous times. Your reference to him and his are you "on the Twitter" inquiries induced a smile of nostalgia. Thanks for the info and the memories. Because of it, I think I'll give you the green checkmark just for style points.
    – Lisa Beck
    Aug 9, 2017 at 4:20
  • I suppose I could hold out for someone's refs to style guides, but my project doesn't really require something so definitive and I thoroughly enjoyed reading squidlydeux's answer. If someone does want to add refs to style guides, I'll consider green checkmark redistribution, but it will have to be pretty darn good to top squidlydeux's.
    – Lisa Beck
    Aug 9, 2017 at 4:21
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Amazon is a unique case, I believe, since Amazon is both an "at" and an "on". If you are referring to Amazon's retail sales at www.amazon.com, then either would work, however, if you refer to AWS, then "on" would be more common.

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