This is a suggested format for citing the most common types of online material in printed texts; it is derived from advice given in various sources (listed at the end). The list of references also serves as examples of the formats suggested. Details such as the order of citation elements and the format of dates are matters for the house style of the publisher.
This guide was first published in the alt.usage.english FAQ, which contains a great deal of useful information about English usage and grammar.
Cite these using the URL format described under World Wide Web below.
Usenet news articles
The standard form of citation is:
<author’s name> <<e-mail address>> <subject> Article <<message-id>> in Usenet newsgroup <newsgroup>, <date>
- Take the <author’s name>, <e-mail address>, <subject>, <message-id>, <newsgroup> and <date> elements from the message header (see the Usenet standards document RFC1036 for further information if necessary).
- Enclose both <e-mail address> and <message-id> within angle brackets. You may break either across lines, but if possible arrange for breaks to occur only at punctuation separators (but not on hyphens, and don’t ever add hyphens).
- In the case of a crossposted article, cite only one newsgroup (most suitably, the one in which the article was actually read).
- As there are now sites on the Web which archive Usenet posts and let you search for messages (notably Google Groups), it is becoming more important than in the past to cite the <message-id> so that searchers can go straight to the right message.
World Wide Web
The standard format for a Web citation is:
<author’s name> <title of document> <<URL>> <date of document> (Accessed <date accessed>)
- Use the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) to identify the source of the material, as specified in the standards document RFC1738. This begins with a code for the type of access involved (“http://”, “ftp://”, “gopher://”, etc.). The appendix to RFC1738 suggests that URLs in citations should be prefixed with “URL:” and surrounded by angle brackets; for example:
However, including the “URL:” prefix seems ugly and unnecessary, as the angle brackets and access code suffice to identify the code as a URL, and nobody follows this advice.
- If the accessed document is dated internally, use that date for the citation. If there is no date given, use the date at which it was first accessed (prefixed by “Accessed” in parentheses, as shown above). Optionally, give both (for example, if you have any reason to think the document may have been amended since its nominal date of creation).
- Give filenames as you first encountered them, including suffixes indicating compressed format, such as “gz” or “zip”.
- Take care to preserve case in network server directories and filenames, as it is usually significant.
- You may break URLs across lines, but if possible arrange for breaks to occur only at punctuation separators (but not on hyphens, and don’t ever add hyphens).
These are the main sources of information for this article:
- Barrett, Alan <email@example.com> MLA citation style for internet documents? Article <firstname.lastname@example.org> in Usenet newsgroup alt.usage.english, 19 May 1995.
- Berners-Lee, T., Masinter, L. & McCahill, M. [ed.] Uniform Resource Locators (URL) Request for Comments 1738, Network Working Group <ftp://ftp.demon.co.uk/pub/doc/rfc/rfc1738.txt> Dec. 1994. (Accessed 3 Feb. 1995)
- Chicago Manual of Style: For Authors, Editors and Copywriters (14th edition), University of Chicago Press, 1993, ISBN-0-226-10389-7, pp. 633-4 [not as comprehensive as the other style manuals cited here, because it is just that bit older].
- Gibaldi, Joseph MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Revised Fourth Edition), Modern Language Association of America, 1995, ISBN 0-87352-565-5, pp. 160-67, 176-78 [the most recent and the most comprehensive advice available; guidance is also given on citing etexts, CD-ROMs, databases and other electronic sources].
- Horton, M. & Adams, R. Standard for interchange of USENET messages Request for Comments 1036, Network Working Group <ftp://ftp.demon.co.uk/pub/doc/rfc/rfc1036.txt> Dec. 1987 (Accessed 19 June 1995).
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Fourth Edition), American Psychological Association, 1994, ISBN 1-55798-241-4, pp. 218-222.
- Wainwright, Mark <email@example.com> MLA citation style for internet documents? Article <D8Gv79.IMB@harlequin.co.uk> in Usenet newsgroup alt.usage.english,