For my thesis I am required to follow the APA citation and reference style. I personally quite like having colored citations (typically blue; some journals do this) because they allow the reader to identify citations more easily and highlight the fact that they are linked to the reference list (clickable).

To give an example: Example

Is this against APA rules? I have not been able to find any information on this online at all. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • 3
    Nice question. I think the best way to get an authoritative answer would be to contact the authors of the APA Style Blog, who frequently answer questions from readers. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:01
  • 1
    Great idea! I have submitted an inquiry and will post any feedback I receive.
    – Constantin
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:09
  • 1
    On a side note, colored citations drive me absolutely nuts. Maybe it's because I grew up in a link-enabled pdf world, but I already assume that all citations are links. All the coloring does is make it very difficult to read through sections with many citations.
    – Roger Fan
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:16
  • One could use a very dark blue so as to make citations look just visible enough. However, I personally don't find that the majority of publications feature clickable citations.
    – Constantin
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:20
  • 1
    @Constantin One certainly could, but I've never seen it done. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a paper that was improved by coloring references; it almost always reduces readability (for me). But that's just my personal reaction.
    – Roger Fan
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


The APA style manual applies most directly to journal submissions. When adopting APA style for use with a thesis, you need to modify APA style in many different ways. For example, you would typically put tables and figures where they occur in text. You might also use 1.5 spacing, a different heading structure, table of contents and so on. The use of hyperlinks and their formatting is merely another one of these decisions.

As @StrongBad notes, you should think about the medium of presentation. If it is electronic, then links that have a subtle formatting may be useful. If it is likely to be printed, then you may want to avoid formatting of links.


I think this is answered in the APA style blog

In short, since there's no rule governing the use of hyperlinks, take your audience and delivery method into account when deciding whether URLs should become active hyperlinks in your paper.

The blog deals with the traditional underlined blue text used by MS Word for hyperlinks. It suggests the formatting can be distracting, especially when printed on a black and white printer, and therefore advises against using formatted hyperlinks for documents that will be printed. The blog, however, does not rule out the possibility of formatted hyperlinks in documents to be printed and seems to endorse formatted hyperlinks for documents that will be read electronically.

  • 1
    +1. This must be one of very few things that APA style doesn't have a rule for. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:14
  • 1
    Your answer is about making URLs clickable. In my case it is the author-year in-text citation itself that is linked. My question concerns specifically the formatting of this in-text citation, not whether or not in-text citations should be clickable. The fact that a citation is clickable at all, is not, after all, a visible difference unless additional formatting is used.
    – Constantin
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:14
  • @Constantin the blog talks about the formatting of links and suggests that they can be a different color and even underlined.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:28
  • URLs are clearly a different case when it comes to formatting as they are often typeset in fixed-width font and one wouldn't have the idea to do that to an author-year citation.
    – Constantin
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 14:46
  • 1
    The linked blog entry discusses hyperlinks. "Clickable" in-text references that send you to the list of references upon clicking are hyperlinks. URLs are just a particular type of hyperlink: one that opens a browser to display a WWW resource. (Yes, technically, URLs "are" not hyperlinks. I assume everyone understands what I'm getting at, right?) I'd say the blog post exactly answers the question, even if the only example of a hyperlink is one auto-generated by typing an URL. Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 15:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .