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December 15, 2011

Should Hyperlinks Be Used in APA Style?

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

If you’ve ever typed a paper using a popular word-processing program, you’ve probably encountered the automatic hyperlink: Type a URL, and the software immediately underlines it and changes the font color to blue (whether you like it or not).

Is this something that needs to be “fixed” in an APA Style paper? The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) contains no guidelines about this. If a document is to be distributed and read electronically, active hyperlinks may be useful. However, common sense tells us that an active hyperlink is of no use in a document intended to be read on paper; furthermore, the default blue color for active hyperlinks usually prints as gray, making them difficult to read. The underlining is distracting as well. Therefore, it seems reasonable to avoid the use of active hyperlinks in documents that will be read in print.

In Word 2010, you can deactivate the auto-hyperlink feature by going to the File tab, clicking on Options, Proofing, and Auto-Correct Options, then on AutoCorrect As You Type. Deselect “Internet and network paths.” Bingo, no more hyperlinks when you type.

You can also eliminate the problem when cutting and pasting URLs by using the Paste Special feature. If you select the Plain Text or Keep Text Only options, the URL will not turn into a hyperlink.

In short, since there's no rule governing the use of hyperlinks, take your audience and delivery method into account when deciding whether URLs should become active hyperlinks in your paper.

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