web & email addressesDon’t hyphenate

Web ad­dresses iden­tify a lo­ca­tion on the In­ter­net. They usu­ally take the form http://www.some­l­ong­name.com/folder/page.html. Email ad­dresses usu­ally take the form name@somecompany.com.

In web pages, web and email ad­dresses are usu­ally hid­den from view be­hind hy­per­links, so they don’t cause ty­po­graphic trouble.

But in print, web ad­dresses present two problems.

The first prob­lem: web ad­dresses can be long. Re­ally, really long. Print­ing the whole web ad­dress may be fine if you can bury it in a foot­note. But it’s use­less if you’re hop­ing read­ers will type the ad­dress on their own.

For a more us­able web ad­dress, use an ad­dress-short­en­ing ser­vice like TinyURL or Bitly. These ser­vices take a web ad­dress of any length and con­vert it into a short ad­dress like:


This is eas­ier to read and type. But it doesn’t re­veal the un­der­ly­ing web ad­dress. It also isn’t guar­an­teed to work permanently.

If you put a web ad­dress in a foot­note or end­note, con­sider run­ning the long ver­sion with a short­ened ver­sion next to it. Then you’re cov­ered. For instance:

See http://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/CACD/LocRules.nsf/
8825768d0067b375?OpenDocument, also available at http://tinyurl.com/y6o4yte.

The sec­ond prob­lem: web ad­dresses are dif­fi­cult to wrap onto mul­ti­ple lines. A web ad­dress is one un­bro­ken string of char­ac­ters. You don’t want your web ad­dress hy­phen­ated, be­cause read­ers will likely mis­take the hy­phens for part of the ad­dress. There­fore, use hard line breaks to set the points where the web ad­dress should wrap onto the next line.

Email ad­dresses are shorter than web ad­dresses and aren’t as painful to work with. But they shouldn’t be hy­phen­ated ei­ther, for the same reasons.

Word proces­sors have an an­noy­ing de­fault habit of mak­ing every web and email ad­dress un­der­lined and blue. That might make some sense if you’re cre­at­ing a PDF that needs to in­clude hy­per­links. But it makes no sense at all if you’re cre­at­ing a doc­u­ment that needs to be printed.

How to turn off automatic hyperlinks

Word FileOptionsProofingAutoCorrect OptionsAutoFormat As You Type → uncheck Internet and network paths with hyperlinks

OS X Word WordPreferencesAutoCorrectAutoFormat As You Type → uncheck Internet and network paths with hyperlinks

Pages EditSubstitutions → uncheck Smart Links

by the way
  • What about ty­pog­ra­phy within emails? Your op­tions are lim­ited. Un­like a PDF, fonts don’t get trans­mit­ted with an email. So even though you can com­pose an email in any font you like, re­cip­i­ents won’t see that font un­less they also hap­pen to have it in­stalled. More­over, re­cip­i­ents read email on a va­ri­ety of de­vices, which have dif­fer­ent and un­pre­dictable ty­po­graphic ca­pa­bil­i­ties. My pol­icy: treat email as a ty­pog­ra­phy-free zone.