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3.10 In an electronic document, link to detailed supplementary information instead of including it in full

See 3.10 of the Checklist »

When we provide our readers with electronic documents (from emails to published legislation), it is more helpful and efficient to provide hyperlinks to detailed information. Readers know that blue or underlined text will take them to a full document, an internet site, or another source where they can view the entire article, table, image, etc.

Links are about both content and navigation. Effective link names are key to helping your readers. Eye-tracking studies show that links written in plain language are the most effective. Plain language links are written clearly so that the reader understands exactly where the link will take them and why.

Links in documents (other than in legislation)

The key thing when considering whether to include a link in your text is not to interrupt the flow of your writing by—

  • referring to too much incidental information from another source or
  • including a lengthy quote from another source or
  • paraphrasing text from another source that is more easily understood in its original form.

All of these can distract your reader from your main message.

If your reader would find the information from another website useful, you should consider including a link. 

On the other hand, you don’t want all your text to be bright blue because it is swamped with links – it’s not easy to read, apart from being distracting. You need a balance, which is a judgement call.

Ask yourself how important or useful the source you are linking to is for your readers. Is it further reading or vital for comprehension?

Plain language links

Following a link should be like turning a page, a natural part of reading that we can trust to happen. It should not be something that the writer has to direct the reader to do with a “click here” or “go there”.

Write the link plainly and clearly so the reader understands exactly where it will take them:

  • don't use the full name of a document or program as a link name if it is lengthy
  • be as explicit as you can – too long is better than too short
  • explain what the link offers – perhaps add a short description to clarify the link or provide some context, so your reader knows what to expect
  • make the link meaningful. Don’t use “click here” or “read more”
  • don’t talk about the mechanics (avoid verbs like “download”)
  • where useful, indicate the form of reference you’re linking to (eg, (PDF) or (Word)), so your readers know what to expect. Also, consider including the physical size of the file. No one likes to select a link to discover they’re downloading a huge file.
cross.gif Click here to find a book.
cross.gif Go to a book written by Jane Austen.
tick.gif Jane Austin is the author of Pride and Prejudice

Don’t forget the basic rules of plain language:

  • write for your audience
  • focus on what the reader needs to know
  • then tell the reader why it’s important to them.

Links in legislation

We link to regulatory impact statements and departmental disclosure statements in explanatory notes and statements of reasons.

Linking style

Our style for linking to Internet site addresses (URLs):

  • Internet site (not “Internet website” or “website”)
  • include the prefix “http://”
  • do not underline the URL
  • if a URL is formatted as an item in a bullet list, do not include an end colon or full stop at the end of the bullet item
  • if a URL falls at the end of a sentence, do not end the item with a full stop
  • if citing more than one URL, format them as separate items in a bullet list. A single URL reference can follow the text – unless very bad spacing results.

The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development produced a regulatory impact statement on 20 May 2021 to help inform the main policy decisions taken by the Government relating to the contents of this Bill.

A copy of this regulatory impact statement can be found at—

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