Quite often, in personal or professional life, it may be necessary to give someone your (or your company’s) email or website or blog address. This post helps you do it in a clear and correct way to avoid misunderstanding and waste of time and energy.

Let’s start with web adresses and we’ll then move on to emails.

How to read web addresses

Take this website’s name for example: www.MyEnglishWorld.org.

The first part, www, which stands for the World Wide Web, is read:
w w w

And the website’s name is read:
w w w dot MyEnglishWorld dot org

So far, so good. But what about websites like that of Lille Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po Lille)?

How would you read www.sciencespo-lille.eu?

Before I explain that, we should first go over a short punctuation point: the difference between a dash and a hyphen.

The Dash (–) is a line used in between words to separate or emphasise some parts of the sentences. It functions a little like parentheses. For example:

  • He is a terrible writer – and he thinks he is the new Shakespeare!
  • They have no real chance of winning the election – yes, they’ll come close — but they’ll lose anyway!

The hyphen (-), which as you see is shorter that a dash, is used to link two or more words together to create one word. Here are some examples:

  • blue-eyed, user-friendly, part-time, well-known, up-to-date

The hyphen is also used at the end of a line to break up a word that won’t fit into the remaining space. This is called hyphenating a word.

When reading website names, however, even if the character we use is clearly a hyphen, many people call it a dash, so you may hear either of the following:
www.sciencespo-lille.eu
w w w dot sciencespo hyphen lille dot e u
w w w dot sciencespo dash lille dot e u

In fact, the use of the word dash is as common here as the word hyphen, if not more common.

How to read emails

An email address identifies an email box to which email messages are delivered, and has three parts:
a local-part (for example john.smith)
the symbol @
and a domain (for example gmail.com)

Here is how you read the above email:
john dot smith at gmail dot com

Some emails may be a little more difficult to read. Here are some examples:

the.boss@mycompany.com
the dot boss at mycompany dot com

the_dean@university.edu
the underscore dean at university dot e d u

good.student@paris-sorbonne.fr
good dot student at paris hyphen sorbonne dot fr
good dot student at paris dash sorbonne dot fr

To sum up…

www w w w
. dot
/ slash
- hyphen or dash
_ underscore
@ at

Want to know more?

Before www, every web address starts with one of the following:
http://  https://

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and its secure version Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), are the protocols over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to.

And they can be read in two ways:
h t t p (s) colon slash slash
h t t p (s) colon double slash

But of course, most of the time, we leave them out when reading a website address and start with www.

Another symbol that you sometimes see in website addresses is ~. It’s a sign from Spanish and Portuguese and is pronounced /ˈtɪldə/. Here is an example:
http://web.media.mit.edu/~username
h t t p colon slash slash web dot media dot e d u dot slash tilde username
(The use of tilde in website addresses is becoming less and less common and is not recommended.)

Some fun facts…

As already mentioned, the @ sign is called “at” in English, but it is interesting to see what it is called in some other languages:

  • The French call it arobas and the Spanish arroba (an old measure of weight).
  • The German call it Klammeraffe (spider monkey).
  • The Dutch name is ape-staart (monkey tail).
  • The Greek refer to it as apaki (duckling).
  • The Russian word is sobaka (dog).
  • The Norwegian word is Krøllalfa, which simply means curly alfa.
  • In Danish, it is snabel-a (elephant’s trunk A)
  • Italians call it chiocciola (snail)
  • But the top prize goes to Indians who call it at the rate of, so the email address marysmith@yahoo.com will be read marysmith at the rate of yahoo dot com.

Any questions?

I hope you can now give your email and website/blog address to English people correctly and with ease.

If you have questions about this post, feel free to ask them in the comments section.