We deal with email addresses and website addresses (URLs) every day, but how should we render them in sentences? Stuart, a reprographics officer in Dorset, England, suggested I write on this topic. It is an excellent idea, and I am happy to offer guidance.
Here are guidelines on how to punctuate, capitalize, and divide email addresses and URLs:
When an email address or website address comes at the end of a sentence, consider whether your readers may mistakenly think that the period (full stop) at the end of the sentence is part of the address. If you think your readers may be confused, use one of these approaches:
- Restructure the sentence so that the address is not at the end of the sentence.
- Set off the address, like this, with no period (full stop):
Please visit my website at:
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications suggests the above approaches. However, The Chicago Manual of Style states:
"Other punctuation marks [other than the slash] used following a URL will readily be perceived as belonging to the surrounding text. It is therefore unnecessary to omit appropriate punctuation after the URL. . . ."
I admit that I used to simply omit the period (full stop) at the end of a sentence that ended with a web address. But now when I create a document online, I typically use a hyperlink with a period at the end of the sentence, which I hope is clear to all. It looks like this: Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. When I believe my reader may be confused, I use the Microsoft approach.
Here are some other rules:
- When you refer to a website--not an address--use normal capitalization, like this:
the TypePad website
- When you use a website address, do not capitalize any part of it, like these: http://www.typepad.com and www.businesswritingblog.com. However, when you are citing a file at an address, do not alter any capitalization. For example, if you make the letters PDF or BBW lower case in this address, you will get an error message:
- Use the preposition at to introduce both email and website addresses, like this:
You can order the lantern at www.rei.com.
- In a printed work, if you must break an address at the end of a line of type, do it in one of these places:
--After a double slash (//) or a single slash (/)
(Note: The Gregg Reference Manual breaks before a single slash.)
--Before a tilde (~), a dot (.), a comma, a hyphen (-), an underline (_), a question mark, an at symbol (@), a number sign (#), or a percent symbol (%), like this:
- Never add a hyphen to an address in order to break it at the end of a line. Just break it, like this:
- If a company name has an apostrophe (for example, Papa Murphy's), do not use it in the website address (www.papamurphys.com). Apostrophes are not allowed in URLs.
Please let me know if you have other questions about email and website addresses. And thanks to Stuart, the reprographics officer in Dorset, who asked me to address this subject. I admire his interest in getting it right for the sake of his customers.
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