Using hyperlinks in your blog posts

When you write blog posts – or anything on the web – you have more options than when you write for printed books or journals. You have the option of embedding images and videos, but you should also not overlook the use of hyperlinks.

When you use hyperlinks in online writing, you are providing

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

In a way, your hyperlinks are a form of citation because you are linking to and crediting other sources. Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it also creates a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the linked sources and reading for understanding. It’s true that the reader has the choice of which links to follow and whether to read all links or not, but the options are there.

As a writer, hyperlinks add references to research you’ve done but do not want to include in depth. Hyperlinks present your wider reading and knowledge which would otherwise have been omitted.

What I like best about hyperlinked articles and posts is that they lead me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. Ideally, the links will lead me to the information I need in order to gain a deep understanding of the post or article.

At the very least, hyperlinks can be used to take the reader to more information so as not to overcrowd the writing with elaborate explanations or definitions. An example of this is the following online article:

The absurd creature of the week: the real life Pokemon that can regenerate missing limbs.

Photo: Jan-Peter Kasper/Corbis

Eyes Are Drawn to Links

Users scan web pages looking for clues as to what the page is about and where to go next. They use sign posts, such as headings and bolded keywords, as shortcuts to information. Hyperlinks also attract users’ attention and need to stand out, both visually and contextually. Underlined blue text is still the most obvious visual indicator of a link. Easy-to-understand links make the page more scannable because they provide both information about what is on the page and an idea of where to go next.

(from Writing hyperlinks: salient, descriptive, start with keyword)

If we look at online profiles (or biographies), so much can be included using hyperlinks while keeping the biography succinct.

Take a look at Cory Doctorow’s online profile:

I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it’s the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help(short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

(Cory Doctorow is a blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.)