How To Stop Web Links Breaking In Email

Sick of sending and receiving emails with web links in them that don't work? Here's some tactics to stop that common but easily avoided problem.

Picture by weasel

There's lots of ways to share information online these days — Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, Digg all spring to mind. However, sending a link via email is still a pretty common occurrence, whether it's from a friend sharing an unusual find or a mailing list devoted to a common topic.

Unfortunately, an equally common occurrence is to receive an email like this, where a lengthy link has been split in half by your email client (in an attempt to make it look neater on screen). As a result, you can't click on the link to access the site, since it's effectively incomplete.

Any site which uses long addresses can suffer this problem, but it's particularly common with database-driven sites like Amazon, Google Docs and the like. In my experience, this rendering issue is more common with desktop mail clients than with web mail solutions like Gmail or Hotmail, but it can be an issue with those, especially with some mailing list platforms.

The fiddly manual solution to this is to select the link with your mouse, copy it, and then paste it into your browser. That doesn't always work either — some browsers will ignore everything after the carriage return anyway — and it's hardly convenient. Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks you can use to (largely) avoid the issue.

If you do have a lengthy link to share via email, there are two easy tactics you can use to avoid it getting broken in transmission. Firstly (and I'd argue most effectively) you can enclose the address in angle brackets:

< >

This generally stops the link being broken in your email, but still allows you to click on it to view the linked site.

The second option is to use a URL-shortening service to make the link more compact. While this is a popular tactic on social networking sites, I'd avoid it when using email, and especially on mailing lists, because it doesn't offer an easy way for the recipient to be sure which site they're being sent to.

That covers sending links effectively, but what about emails you receive? Apart from educating your correspondents, one option to consider is switching off HTML rendering in your email client (and subscribing to plain-text mailing lists when those options are offered). It's not a universal solution, but it will help manage the issue in some cases. Here's how to select that option in Outlook and Thunderbird.

Got your own email link management tactics? Let's hear them in the comments.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


    TinyURL offers an optional secure preview URL.

    Another sneaky way of advertising ipad. Why did the example link have to be to an ipad article?

      Short answer: I picked the most popular article from the last week. No hidden agenda!

    Those using Google Apps for their email can use the great URL shortening service Google Short Links. The shorteded url uses the same domain as your own ie shortlink.yourdomain/shortenedurl. I use it remember to give frequently used sites to other for tech support of families and for tracking links shared publicly

    i receive heaps of emails with links, and i dont think i've ever had this issue. Just copy and paste the lines together if it's an issue.

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