How to Format URLs in Your Essay

The internet is a wonderful place.  A near endless amount of information is available at your fingertips, just waiting for you to access it.

When writing an essay online, linking to information like this is simple enough—you just throw in a hyperlink, like so.  But what if you’re writing something you’re going to turn in hard-copy, or you’re writing your bibliography?  How should you format your web links?

First of all, if you’re expected to use a specific citation format – Chicago, MLA, or APA – then check their specific recommendations.  The following are some general rules of thumb, and will work for most cases.

If you’re turning in something physical, you shouldn’t have hyperlinks in your text.  They’ll just show up as underlined words on the page, which doesn’t do much good if you can’t click on them!  Instead, make sure you type out the address itself, so readers can go to the webpage if they want.

When you’re using a web address in a sentence, you don’t need to give it special treatment—just type it like you would a word.  So, even if it’s at the end of a sentence, include proper punctuation—this sentence will end with  Some people don’t like that trailing period—they worry that people will type in “.com.” at the end, which won’t work when you try to go to the page online.  In this day and age, though, most people are internet savvy enough to know what web addresses look like, so you don’t need to worry about that ending punctuation throwing someone off.

One thing you’ll have to decide is if you want to throw in the full web address, or just the minimum required to get the link to work – the difference between typing out or just  In most manuals of style, either are acceptable, so it’s up to you to decide what best fits your style.  Personally, I include the “www” but leave out the “http://”, but the choice is up to you.

The final problem you might run into is a particularly long URL, especially one with lots of numbers and symbols: something terrible like this:

If you have something massive like that, there are two things you can do.  First of all, don’t use a hyphen at the line break; URLs often include hyphens as it is, and that’s just asking for confusion for your reader.  Instead, find something natural, like a slash or a number sign.  Don’t break it right after a period; readers might think that that’s the end of a sentence.

A more useful idea might be using a link shortener—a site like will allow you to take that massive gobbledygook and turn it into something short that fits in a sentence.  That’s a much better option for most cases, but be warned—the link will only work as long as is a company.  If you’re writing something that needs to be valid for, say, 30 years, that might not be an option.

Finally, if you’re having any questions about how your weblinks should work or if you’ve formatted everything correctly, stop on by Wordsmith Essays’ order page today.  Our team of international editors are ready to make sure everything’s in the right place and ready to go.  Check us out today!


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