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April 21, 2015

Should Links Be Live in APA Style?

Dear Style Experts,

My reference list includes many URLs and I am wondering whether they should be live and how they should be formatted (e.g., with underlining or blue font). In the Publication Manual it looks like links aren’t live, but it would be helpful for them to be in my paper because I am submitting it online. What do I do?

Cheers,

—Harry H.

Circle-links

Dear Harry,

The Publication Manual does not explicitly address whether hyperlinks should be live in APA Style (as previously discussed here), but we have some additional thoughts on the matter (naturally).

First, it is fine for links to be live in a paper, though not specifically required. Live hyperlinks are particularly helpful when a paper is being read in an online environment. In fact, the online versions of articles published in APA journals include live links in both the PDF and HTML versions.

However, aesthetics are also a concern. The default formatting for links in many word-processing programs, including Microsoft Word, is to make them blue and underlined. Although this makes the links stand out, it can also make them look distracting or hard to read, especially if the paper has been printed out. Thus, we remove the underlining from the link and set the font color to black. You can easily adjust the formatting after you have finished writing the paper or you can change the Word style for hyperlinks.

Finally, note that our recommendations apply for people writing papers, which conceivably might be viewed either online or in print. If you are using APA Style in another context, such as on a website, you might apply different formatting standards (e.g., color) to best suit the viewing needs of your audience. Thus, keep context and audience in mind when formatting your links in a paper.

Hope that helps!

—Chelsea Lee

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