In a hypertext document, when the title of a short work (which is enclosed in quotation marks) is a link should the quotation marks be included as part of the link text? Do common style guides generally concur on how this should be handled?

It seems that such quotation marks should be included as part of the link text, since italics (and until CSS3 underscore) are naturally included as part of the text and ::before and ::after CSS content1 is considered by default as part of the element's text (though such content can be independently styled). An argument could also be made that a link references the object itself and not the title text designating the object, and so HTML should use <a><cite>Title</cite></a>.

On the other hand, such decorations are not part of the text proper and so might reasonably be treated as external content.

A very brief search did not find any examples of short titles used as links. One common use, at least for linking to PDF documents, is to include a separate link text (e.g., 'For more detailed coverage of these issues see "Title Decorations in Hypertext Documents" (PDF)'). In fact, in online publication lists, enclosing paper titles in quotation marks seems not to be universal practice.

A more general question would be whether such decorations should be considered part of the element's content with respect to styling. (E.g., if <q> styling used some form of quotation mark enclosure and foreground color, should the quotation marks use the foreground color styling of the quoted text.) For CSS, the default styling includes ::before and ::after content as part of the element's content, hinting that the World Wide Web Consortium at least considers such the common use.

1 which could be used to insert such decorations using rules like: cite[class~="short_work"]::before {content: '"'} cite[class~="short_work"]::after {content: '"'}

2 Answers 2


I recommend keeping quotation marks outside of the link, unless they're part of the title of the work. So you'd have this:

I was reading the story "Flowers for Algernon" when the doorbell rang.

I was paging through the tale "—All You Zombies—" when my arm was bitten off.

(The latter story's title includes quotation marks.)

Whatever you do, pick a method and stick with it within a work.

Style guide rulings:

The Yahoo Style Guide doesn't address this issue directly, but it specifies that punctuation shouldn't be included in a link. Examples from p.127, July 2010:

Welcome to Me-Yow! Send us feedback.

A picture of Bigfoot?

Where are my orders? Where is my shopping cart?

Similarly, the Chicago Manual of Style addresses punctuation in general but not quotation marks specifically. From CMOS 14.11, 16th edition:

Other punctuation marks that follow a URL or other such identifier will readily be perceived as as belonging to the surrounding text.

  • I agree with Lauren that the CSS element of this question is better asked elsewhere, but we can address the rest of the question. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 17:48
  • I can't find anything about this in AP or APA, but if someone else can I'd be happy to edit those into this answer. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 17:48

I would put the quotes in the link, because the quotes are around the title of the article and are therefore part of it.

The CSS formatting is a question better asked on Graphic Design SE.

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