Dealing with long URLs

First things first - what on earth is a "URL"?

The letters stand for "Universal Resource Locator" - which leaves me none the wiser.  What it actually means is a Web Address.  Simple as that!  The bit that generally starts with "www."

These addresses can sometimes be really long and complicated - running to two or three (or even more) lines in an email.  Some email clients work with these just fine.  With others it can be more complicated.

"Just a short note to say that my email client had no issues with the link.
It showed it split over two lines with the full-stop, but correctly joined
it all together again and omitted the final dot from the destination."

If your email client works well with a long address, then you can ignore the first section of this article.  But you need to pay especial attention to Part 2 because you'll not be aware of the problems that you are causing to a lot of your readers. (and do remember that, if you cause problems, you'll lose readers!)

Dealing with a long address in an email

I recently received a mail with the following link:

http://papastronsay.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/repair-works-at-pier-over-past-
fe w.html.

The highlighting of the link was just as above (and it was the link to which Andrew referred in the quote above)

It is clear that the automatic link text stops at the line break and part of the address is omitted.  It won't work!  Try it and see...  You'll reach the website but then you get a message:

Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does
not exist.

Andrew's mail client (GMail) deals with the lines OK (as already established.  In mine (Pegasus Mail), I can highlight all of the address text and click "Open selection as hyperlink".  K-9 mail on an Android phone copes well with the split lines - but doesn't join up the space in the text.  And so on...

This particular link shows three of the common problems that you'll find:

Split lines

We've looked at that.  Most email browsers will deal with these in their own way - some more intuitive than others.

Spaces

Spaces are never allowed in web addresses.  A space is always wrong!  Many web creation tools will cope if you try adding a space - they either ignore the space or they replace it with the computer code for a space, so your web address will look like:

www.My%20Web%20Address.com
not a link - it won't work!

If you find a space in a quoted web address (or an email address for that matter), it is always wrong.  You can try the link with the space deleted.  If that doesn't work, you'll need to do more detective work.  If you come across the "%20" mark, leave that - it is a genuine part of the grenerated address.

Full Stops

All addresses will have full stops (the "dot" in "dot-com"!) and they are quite correct.  But if you add one at the end of the address (usually because it is at the end of a sentence) you will invariably break the link.

http://papastronsay.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/repair-works-at-pier-over-past-few.html.

With the period (full stop) at the end, you'll still get the error message above

You clearly have a little editing to do.  How you do it s up to you. 

  • You can select each line in the email in turn and paste it (in the right order!) into the address bar of your web browser.
  • You can copy the whole address into a text editor or word processor and edit it there to remove the line breaks and spaces.
  • You can (laboriously!) type the whole thing in by hand.
  • You can click the bit of linked text in the email.  You'll probably get an error - but you can then edit the address bar to add or remove characters

"You need to paste the whole link for it to work.
If I don't have a short URL, I copy and paste
the first line then go back and pick up the other
line(s) and paste that to the end of first line as
well."


Pasting long addresses in an email

Sometimes this is unavoidable. All you can do is to make sure that you don't make matters worse!  Never put a space or a line return by hand and never put a full stop straight after it.  If your sensibility insists that you add a full stop at the end of a sentence, then put a space in between.

This "unavoidability" is, largely, because you may well want to reassure your reader that this really is the genuine address.  It is, however, often more convenient to make the address short enough to fit on any email message line.  To do that, you simply paste the address from the bar at the top of your browser into a box on one of the "address shrinking" websites.  I use something called "TinyURL" - largely because it has a simple way to add a button to my toolbar.  Visit a page (any page) and click the button.  TinyURL will create a short address that will forward your reader to the right spot:

http://papastronsay.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/repair-works-at-pier-over-past-few.html
becomes
http://tinyurl.com/bw9omhc

 Here's a link to TinyURL so you can try it yourself:

Enter a long Address to make tiny:

Making a neat address

Sometimes it's not the length of an address that's a particular problem, but simply the fact that you can't remember it.  I have a Google map for people who want to find our church.  The address for this is:

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=207378071414030770627.0004cf9d4cb0cdb99c330&msa=0

Fancy meeting someone in the street and telling her that?

In TinyURL, you have the option of specifying the code to use.  If it is available - that's your address!  I have no problem in telling someone,

www.tinyurl.com/holytrinityskipton

... and they may well remember it too!

Important... if you do make a "special" tinyurl like this - write it down!  There is (as far as I know) no way to retrieve the codes you've made. 

Neither is there a way to delete one, so you only get one shot at this.  I've got a little string of "htskipton", "skiptonht", "holytrinityskipton" sitting there...