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For example,

The website I was referring to is hosted at http://english.stackexchange.com.

How should I place the fullstop at the end?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The official specification for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) has a section titled “Wrappers for URIs in plain text” which recommends using angle brackets ‘<’ and ‘>’ for delimiting URLs when they appear in the context of a plain text message:

This section does not formally form part of the URL specification .

URIs, including URLs, will ideally be transmitted though protocols which accept them and data formats which define a context for them. However, in practice nowadays there are many occasions when URLs are included in plain ASCII non-marked-up text such as electronic mail and usenet news messages.

In this case, it is convenient to have a separate wrapper syntax to define delimiters which will enable the human or automated reader to recognize that the URI is a URI.

The recommendation is that the angle brackets (less than and greater than signs) of the ASCII set be used for this purpose.

These wrappers do not form part of the URL, are not mandatory, and should not be used in contexts (such as SGML parameters, HTTP requests, etc) in which delimiters are already specified.

Example

Yes, Jim, I found it under <ftp://info.cern.ch/pub/www/doc> but you can probably pick it up from <ftp://ds.internic.net/rfc>.

If you follow this recommendation, the answer is easy: place the terminal punctuation after the closing angle bracket delimeter ‘>’.

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3  
This is good advice. Also, if you do that in the context of a Stack Exchange app (or anywhere else which uses Markdown), it'll automatically get turned into a link. –  Mark Embling Aug 14 '10 at 19:06
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This is an awesomely useful answer. Thank you! –  elliot42 May 4 '11 at 10:21
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Unfortunately this bracketing recommendation hasn't really caught on in the 17 years old since the URL spec was published. –  Hugo Oct 27 '11 at 12:10
    
No, I think it has somewhat caught on where the spec says it should: "URIs in plain text". If you have rich text, make it a link, and you'll be okay. –  McKay Jan 28 at 16:01
    
I would always go with this answer. That angle brackets haven't yet caught on doesn't mean they'll be incomprehensible to others. Quite the contrary: The meaning will still be self-evident and readers will become more likely to adopt that format themselves, so the usage might actually catch on. Keep in mind that if this were a house address, you'd have to adopt an entirely different strategy for communicating it, with more potential awkwardness and even ambiguity. A URI or URL is a compacting of something large and deserves special treatment such as that afforded by the angle brackets. –  Mijcar Jan 31 at 22:23

I'd say there's nothing wrong with putting a full stop at the end. The only thing I'd advise caution with is allowing the full stop to actually become part of a clickable link, as that may not work.

Bad:

The website I was referring to is hosted at http://english.stackexchange.com.

Good:

The website I was referring to is hosted at http://english.stackexchange.com.

Most things tend to do the right thing in these circumstances so I'd say it is just something to be aware of. From a grammatical (and aesthetic) point of view, the full-stop definitely ought to appear and shouldn't have a leading space.

In terms of just plain text, I'd say put the full stop there (since it does belong there) and assume that everyone knows not to actually try and type that in. I could imagine almost anyone who's had any contact with the internet will know that sites end in something like .com or .info, not .com. or .info.

For email addresses (as opposed to URLs), I'd say the same thing applies:

My email address is bob@example.com.

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Fun fact: If the URL is just a domain name with no path component, a . at the end will work. Every domain actually ends with a . to signify the root domain, but nowadays browsers treat that as implicit and allow you to leave it off. Try it out: http://english.stackexchange.com./ works. –  mipadi Aug 13 '10 at 14:51
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@mipadi: You're 100% right, and being a web developer I actually know this - I guess it slipped my mind. I guess I was thinking about it when you do include the path, at which point it wouldn't work - especially as I generally include the trailing slash on all URLs. You are definitely right though, my examples were very poor there. :) –  Mark Embling Aug 14 '10 at 19:05
    
@mipadi While I agree with you, I'm a developer too, it doesn't work. Try it out. english.stackexchange.com. doesn't work for me. Error 400 Invalid Hostname. –  McKay Jan 27 at 16:08
    
@McKay: Probably something with the server config. Try it on another hostname -- it should work. –  mipadi Jan 27 at 18:07
    
@mipadi Yes. But that leaves the original comment incorrect, because it obviously doesn't work with all domains. –  McKay Jan 28 at 15:11

Good question. It depends on the medium:

  • If this is on a web page, and the URL is actually a link, there's no need to do anything: it will be clickable and do the right thing.

  • In formatted text, use a clearly distinct font for the URL, with clearly different punctuation characters.

  • In plain text, you could rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem, e.g.:

    At http://english.stackexchange.com you can find the website I was referring to.

  • If this is not possible or desirable, you can put a space in front of the period to avoid confusion.

    However, that could cause the period to move to the beginning of the next line, which is ugly. Maybe the non-breaking space character could help, but it's hard to type and many computer programs don't handle it properly.

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It would be a distinctive font indeed where the periods are clearly differentiated with those from other fonts. –  Neil Fein Apr 20 '11 at 16:21

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