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Writing and Publishing

How to Format Web Addresses in Books

Authors advised to format web addresses to ensure readability and usability

Three Tips to Formatting URLs

When a book includes a web address, either in the text, a footnote, or in the front and back material, how it is formatted is important. There are two considerations: readability and usability.

Readability

When a reader comes across a web address (sometimes called a URL or uniform resource locator) it should not slow down the reader or impede the flow of the text. Having it in blue and underlined, as is the traditional method for websites, does not look good in a book. Black text and no underline is ideal in this regard for print books.

If the author has control over the web address, here are two tips:

  • Make it short
  • Use all lowercase

Of course, if the link is a reference to another site, authors cannot make these adjustments and must use the source as presented. Some web addresses are unwieldy and dramatically reduce readability. If possible avoid these behemoths in your text.

Usability

The other consideration is usability. When the book appears in an e-reader (or PDF file) the link must be clickable.

  • Web addresses should start with www. or https://. If they don’t initially have one of these two prefixes, check which one works (usually they both will) and add it. This will ensure the web address will convert to a clickable link.
  • Subdomains in the format of “subdomain.yoursite.com” will usually not convert to a clickable link, either. In books always precede a subdomain with https:// as in “https://subdomain.yoursite.com”

If you follow these steps, when you make an ebook or PDF document, the web addresses will automatically convert to a clickable link. By default, the text will usually change to blue and maybe underlined. While this does affect readability to some extent, it confirms to readers that the link is active.

Following these simple steps will ensure web addresses in your book are both readable and usable. Your readers will appreciate this.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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