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Lazy Authors vs. Link Shorteners

Written by Gary North on December 17, 2016

One of my pet peeves is a full-URL in a footnote in a printed book. The footnote may be 60 characters long. It may be longer.

The author is visibly lazy. He did not type in this URL. He used cut and paste to stick it into his manuscript. Yet he expects readers to type in the long URL, in order to access the online document.

I say to all authors: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If you did not type in the URL, don’t expect the reader to do this.

First, it’s easy to cut and paste when you are online. It is not easy to type a long URL when copying from a printed book.

Second, if you type one letter or character wrong, you go to a page that says “no such page.” If a URL has 20 characters or more, few people will type it correctly. The longer the URL, the more likely it will not work.

Third, if you fill a footnote with some huge URL, it looks ghastly on the page. The same is true of a long URL in a bibliography.

This is why I use www.bit.ly, a free link shortener. I signed up through Twitter. It is the only thing I have ever done with my Twitter account: access bit.ly’s custom link-creation page. If you sign up with bit.ly, you can then sign in. If you sign in, you get to create a custom link: easy to remember.

Look at one of my books, my commentary on Mark. I footnote books that I published and that I keep online as free PDF’s. I want readers to read them. So, when I footnote an online book in a PDF, I include a bit.ly link shortener in parentheses. It is a few letters long: easy to type in accurately. I have created the link so that anyone can type it accurately in two seconds. This takes the reader right to my recommended book or article.

Any author who posts an original URL by cut and paste is lazy. Second, he does not care about the reader’s inability to type in a long URL accurately. Third, he is not really interested in helping the reader access the information in the footnote. I can think of only one legitimate reason for an author to include an original URL: he is ignorant of link shorteners. Send him a link to this article. I have created two bit.ly links for you to use. The first is a free one that I got without signing in. The second is one that I created by signing in: a custom URL.


The first URL is polite. The second is easy to remember.

For a list of link-shortening services, click here.

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