I am writing a textbook which contains some lists of recommended Web sites. Unlike the question How should be the format for literature references that are websites (URLs)?, these will not be references. For example:

Here are some magazines about geography:
- Canadian Geographic (http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/)
- Geographical (www.geographical.co.uk)
- Australian Geographical (http://australiangeographic.com.au/)

How should the URL be written? Is it more formal and professional to include or exclude "http://" and the "/" at the end?


STD 66 (which is RFC 3986 currently) is the standard for URIs.

It contains a section "Delimiting a URI in Context", in which it says (emphasis mine):

URIs are often transmitted through formats that do not provide a clear context for their interpretation. For example, there are many occasions when a URI is included in plain text; examples include text sent in email, USENET news, and on printed paper. In such cases, it is important to be able to delimit the URI from the rest of the text, and in particular from punctuation marks that might be mistaken for part of the URI.

It lists the following methods:

Is it more formal and professional to include or exclude "http://" and the "/" at the end?

You should definitely include the URI scheme. While currently most people and also tools like browsers assume http, this can change in the future. And even today, some Web pages might not work with http (e.g., https only), some documents might be available via ftp, etc.

If the URIs don’t contain a path (e.g., http://example.com/), the trailing slash can be omitted. It doesn’t make a difference. However, a trailing slash in an URI path (e.g., the last slash in http://example.com/foo/) should definitely be included. If you omit it, the URI might point to a different (or non-existent) document (if not now, then maybe in the future).

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  • Nice find. Thank you for this answer and for linking to the standard. – Monica Cellio Feb 23 '14 at 21:36

Leading http://, no trailing /, monospace font.

With modern domain names, without http:// it may get confusing. Would you say the.british.museum is an URL at first glance?

If this is to appear in an electronic format (even for offline reading) adding spaces between the braces and the URL is a nice user-friendly gesture making copy&paste easier.

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    Depending on the piece, I might use italics rather than a monospace font, which I find really distracting, but in any case, some form of highlight formatting would be called for. Definitely agree with the rest. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Feb 3 '14 at 10:48
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    Also, if you drop the "http://", then the first time you need to use "https://" you have a problem -- your URLs are either wrong or inconsistent in appearance. Don't confuse your readers like that. – Monica Cellio Feb 3 '14 at 14:04
  • I've seen at least one dictionary which omits the http:// for URLs which start with www. I really dislike this style, though I suppose I understand it. – TRiG Feb 17 '14 at 18:23
  • Note that http://example.com is the same as http://example.com/ (so yes, you can drop the trailing slash). However, http://example.com/path is not the same as http://example.com/path/. The server may serve the same content for both, or redirect one to the other, or it may not. Don't remove a trailing slash in this situation. – TRiG Oct 28 '14 at 19:04

If you're including URL's inline, format them with the protocol (http://) and either a trailing slash or filename, plus any required parameters. Include any canonical items that appear when you click a link back to the site's home page, such as a leading "www".

If you're writing a table of "useful websites" with the URL in a distinct column, you can instead omit much of the url and include only the optional subdomain, domain name, and TLD.

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When making something similar to a "list of recommended websites":

Name of the source >whitespace< description >whitespace< link

where the link can be specified as follows:



Of course, it is not a mandate to specify the description or even the name of the source. Some people may simply tend to create a list of the websites.

In either case, there are two types of conventions seen when writing the URLs:

Further, http or https is mentioned. So is the www following the //.

The choice of the font in which it is written depends on the publisher. Usually, when the manuscript is being discussed, the publisher will provide a template. The template will specify exactly which font (and style) URLs need to be written in. If none is specified, you may choose to separate the URL from the main text by using a monospaced font (as recommended by SF) or else keep it consistent with the rest of the text. Certain others might recommend using main body font and italics (for example, O'Reilly recommends this).

List of sources for the answer:

  1. Looking at several textbooks which have a "Recommended" list (apart from References/Bibliography)
  2. A paper (here) I found which has a "Recommended Website" list
  3. The Hot Rock list of recommended resources which uses a table type format for specifying list of websites

If you want more details/sources, please comment. Hope this answer helps!

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You set a bounty and wrote in the comment you want a "credible and/or official source". And I'm not sure what's the purpose of that. It's a matter of style. You got some decent suggestions. If you choose one than that's your style, and that should be "credible" by definition. Otherwise why do you write the textbook in the first place if you are not credible?

There are several "official" styles out there and they contradict each other in many topics. So if there isn't a given style (e.g. chosen by your publisher), you can just pick your own. You even can create your own.

But if you think that you need some sort of feeling safe, the APA Style suggests http:// an the beginning and no slash at the end (http://www.apastyle.org/learn/faqs/cite-website.aspx).

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    There might be style guides out there that address this. I assume those would count as "credible sources". (By the way, the bounty language is SE boilerplate; the bounty-giver didn't write those words.) The web has been broadly available for 20 years now; I would hope that there are industry standards (note plural :-) ) for how to deal with this problem. – Monica Cellio Feb 6 '14 at 15:18
  • Reviewing prior art can be helpful. It may not apply to your situation, but seeing how others have solved a problem might save you time and frustration. – Monica Cellio Feb 7 '14 at 14:29
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    Personally I believe the asker is overthinking this. It's a very simple matter and trying to find a second bottom like a formal set of rules is like trying to find a formally correct direction of stirring tea. – SF. Feb 7 '14 at 15:38

There has been a trend in print to supply minimised URLs such as ow.ly or tinyurl.com as this makes typing the link easier on the reader.

However as style goes it is vital to find a way to be consistent yet remain within the technical understanding of the reader.

Many news outlets create online portions that act as a gateway so that the links are all branded for example "... you can find links to at www.oursite.etc/LinksToTopic ..."

What matters most here is clarity and consistency. Most professional manuals of style appear professional because they impose consistency and this creates familiarity. As URLs in print are still relatively new and most publishing groups (even the BBC) are still struggling to understand how to link to a source the standard is still something that has yet to be established. This allows the likes of you and I to decide what works best.

I'd make the most of that freedom if I were you.

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