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I am a designer who is working on an ad that will appear in print in a German language periodical. The ad includes a URL, and I'm wondering if there is a standard or generally accepted way of capitalizing URLs in German. Do links follow German capitalization rules? Is there a common way for this to be done in magazines, newspapers, ads, etc? Thanks in advance!

Edit: We are able to customize the URL to work with caps, without caps, etc. My question isn't as much about what's technically possible but what is the common practice in Germany.


Would one of these be considered correct?

A. www.deutscherVerlag.com/Beispiel

B. www.deutscherverlag.com/beispiel

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    I am not sure whether that is just me, but the first and only thought I have when looking at the capitalized "Beispiel" in option A is that whoever wrote that did not know how to handle their text editor and thus failed to overcome auto-correction. Mar 1, 2021 at 19:50
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    In addition to any language rules, you probably need to check whether the form you settle on actually works technically. For example, "www.deutscherverlag.com/beispiel" and "www.deutscherverlag.com/Beispiel" may very well be two different pages in the same website. Mar 1, 2021 at 19:52
  • See related question on webmasters for an explanation, which parts are case-sensitive at all.
    – guidot
    Mar 2, 2021 at 8:17
  • Whatever you do, let some native speaker check your URL or you might earn yourselves a honorable mention on Twitter or Facebook: Your thoughtfully created domain name of "Urinstinkt.com" ("basic instinct.com") might, with a bit of different capitalization ("UrinStinkt") morph into a domain name of "urine stinks".
    – tofro
    Apr 14 at 19:02

3 Answers 3

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First some technical constraints:

The host part (the part between https:// (or http://) and the next slash) is not case sensitive. In this part you can mix uppercase and lowercase letters as you like. So, for your examples this means, that both of these two versions will always work, and you will always reach the very same resource:

www.deutscherVerlag.com
www.deutscherverlag.com

Anything after this first single slash could be case sensitive. If it is case sensitive or not depends on the operation system of the server and on the server software. So, for some URLs it is possible to replace letters with their uppercase/lowercase counterpart, and for some URLs such a replacement makes the URL invalid.

So be careful with this part of your example. It is very likely, that only one of them will work while the other version might fail. It is also possible, that both of them are valid but refer to two different resources.1

Beispiel
beispiel

The international standard is to write the host part completely in lowercase letters. The rest has to be written as defined by the provider of the resources.

This international standard is also used for resources in German language. But some companies have defined a corporate identity where a specific capitalization is used also for their URL.

Here are some examples:

But as far as I can tell these are just exceptions. German native speakers are used to URLs in all lowercase, and most of them just don't care.


1 Something similar is true for e-mail addresses: The part behind the @ sign is the host part which is case insensitive. The part before this symbol depends on settings of the server. On some servers this part is case sensitive, on some it is not. ([email protected] and [email protected] might be the addresses of two different people, they might be the same address, or it could be that only one of them works.)

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  • Thanks so much for your thorough response. Do you have a source for the "international standard" that you mentioned? It would be helpful for me to be able to point to some sort of a source.
    – alphakashi
    Mar 2, 2021 at 14:09
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    URLs are defined in RFC 3986. In section 3.2.2 of this document you find this sentence: "Although host is case-insensitive, producers and normalizers should use lowercase for registered names ..." Mar 2, 2021 at 17:44
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How do you properly capitalize URLs in German?

Quite simply: not at all. In print advertising, URLs are usually completely lowercase. There are of course exceptions where the domain name is capitalized in whole or in part, but these are rare.

Be careful and ALWAYS write the path part of the URL (domainname.tld/path) in lower case. Alternatively, the server must be set so that it always correctly interprets a lowercase or uppercase path. Because while it doesn't matter how you spell the tld (top level domain) or the domain name, Linux servers (with which many web servers run) make a distinction between "Beispiel" and "beispiel".

Furthermore, keep the URL as short and as simple as possible. It's not that common in Germany yet, but you could also add a QR code.

Another tip: look at the company's business cards. Write the domain name as shown and the path ALWAYS in lower case

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From a grammatical point of view the first example would be correct. Beispiel is a noun after all.

Thing is, programmers tend to abide rules that eliminate risk of confusion. So they simply use only minuscules in the entire URL path. Now this not exlude that when the secretary of the company writes some content she links to /Beispiel in her text. Therefore the user gets a 404.

If you still want to go the gramatical path, remember that nouns are written in capitals and titles are not written all in capitals (as in English) but also comply to grammatics.

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