HOWTO read and pronounce URLs

URLs usually appear in written form — online or on paper. Sometimes, URLs are spoken aloud. You’ll often hear URLs read out:

  • during television and radio advertisements
  • in voicemail messages
  • on conference calls

So what? Well, almost everyone gets it wrong.

And you sound like an idiot when you do.

I’ve seen directors of national political organizations and billion-dollar public companies make these mistakes.

In the interest of saving you and your organization future embarrassment, let’s run through a quick example. Suppose we want to give out the URL for Google Voice, the replacement for GrandCentral.

The URL for Google Voice is:

http://www.google.com/voice

You would read it aloud like so:

w-w-w dot google dot com slash voice

What not to do:

  • Don’t read out “http://”. Nobody needs to hear “h-t-t-p colon slash slash.” It’s at the beginning of every URL. That’s eight syllables you waste.
  • Don’t say “backslash.” A backslash looks like this: \. If you type a backslash instead of a slash, your web browser will give you an error.
  • Don’t say “forward slash.” A forward slash is the default type of slash. It’s either slash or backslash. Don’t waste those three syllables.

Suppose you want to read about my house concerts. The URL for my house concerts site is:

http://concerts.shrub.ca/

You would read it aloud like so:

concerts dot shrub dot c-a

  • Don’t read out “http://”. Nobody needs to hear “h-t-t-p colon slash slash.” It’s at the beginning of every URL. That’s eight syllables you waste.
  • Don’t say “www” — it’s not in the URL.
  • Don’t pronounce the trailing slash. (I’ve never heard anyone do this, but you never know.)

A note about top-level domains

The last part of the hostname is the top-level domain (TLD). For google.com, it’s “com.” For concerts.shrub.ca, it’s “ca.”

If you have a three-or more letter TLD (com, net, org, info, biz), pronounce it like a word. For “eff.org,” say “e-f-f dot org,” not “e-f-f dot o-r-g.”

If you have a two-letter (country code) TLD, spell it out. For Canada (.ca), say “c-a,” not “ka”; for Switzerland (.ch), say “c-h.”

One Response to HOWTO read and pronounce URLs

  1. ClassicUser says:

    Bless you, Paul, for calling out the idiots who insist on referring to slashes as “backslashes”, because they are too brainwashed from Windoze to know the difference. This is perhaps minor, but one of my most-common, and most frustrating, annoyances with URLs being spoken on TV or radio commercials, customer support announcements, etc.

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