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Bud Hunt
Oct 19 2010

Hyperlinks Are, Well, Hyperlinks, I Guess


Hyperlinks are overlooked as an essential tool in the digital writer's toolbox. Perhaps this happens because the people who use them have internalized that use. Or maybe it's that hyperlinks are taken for granted—we just know and understand them so well that we don't need to talk about them. But I don't think that's true at all. Hyperlinks are under-understood and underused by student writers, and perhaps even their teachers, because they're new, and we haven't yet figured out what to do with them.

I continue to feel a need to explore them in my work with student writers. To that end, I keep trying to think of ways that we can explore how hyperlinks change writing, how they affect the text. Here are a few of my favorite examples and exercises that I've used in the past, all taken from my blog.

1. Hyperlinks Might Be Adjectives

These three sentences are very different sentences:

  • I think he really enjoyed the parade.
  • I think he really enjoyed the parade.
  • I think he really enjoyed the parade.

Why and so what? Defend your answers in the comments.

2. Hyperlinks Might (Not) Be Adjectives

  • He was a nice person.
  • He was a nice person.
  • He was a nice person.
  • He was a nice person.

Then again, they might be. Or not. Definitely not in the first sentence. Again, defend your thoughts in the comments. More to come.

3. Hyperlinks as Punctuation

How might you punctuate the words below in ways that create different meanings? Might hyperlinks serve as punctuation, too?

I haven’t a clue, just thinking out loud, but I can think of at least three ways to punctuate those words below, each creating very different meanings, not including hyperlinks.


The words in question:

I don’t write well like you do

4. Thinking 'bout Linking

Tonight, I’m sitting in a local cafe, enjoying a cup of wicked sweet coffee and some tunes. As I wrote that last sentence, and added the links in, I wondered how you would read it. Are you someone who clicks on any link you see in a blog post? Or are you more like me? I use a browser that shows me the URL of the link I’m pointing to, saving me the trouble of traveling here if, after reading the URL, I see that I don’t need to follow the link, perhaps because I already know the site, or I don’t want to go to the site, because I’m worried about pop-ups, or a virus, or something that I don’t actually want to see. I love that browser, except when it leaks memory.

I could continue, but I think (hope) I’m making my point. I could have written that paragraph without the links – but I would’ve need an awful lot more details to tell you as much as I did with the links. And you each will have worked your way through that paragraph differently. Some of you read and clicked and fiddled. Others of you read differently. (Oh—and here’s a minor nit—but how many of you, in that last sentence, read, ahem, “read” in the past tense? Present tense? Language is hard. But anyway.)

I don’t know what my students do/did when they see blocks of text with links. And I’m 98 percent sure that there wasn’t another teacher in my school who was thinking about how to explain that to students, much less about how they read that text themselves.

The above are a fine start for some exercises that help to tease out some of the ways that hyperlinks can be used as accents, or modifiers, or, well, just as hyperlinks, in a piece of digital writing. But there's more to say of them. Such a set of exercises should contain a discussion on how best to cite using a hyperlink, and where the link should link to, and from which word or words in a citation such a link should be linked. And, of course, each of those notions is complex and won't have a single answer. But they're worth grasping after.

Creative Commons Licence
<p>Really love this post about hyperlinks. I've only recently started to think about how best to place them within a text although I realize those who submit to my literary magazine already have terrific skills in finding ways to refer and bounce off the work of other writers. Not to plut the mag, but you can see what I mean at http://referentialmagazine.com . I want to become a better hyperlinker now!</p>