Using Links

click_hereBelow is a short list of my main gripes about link habits.  I realize that much of reading and writing is a matter of aesthetics and can’t be argued, but perhaps one or two of these points will help the reader consider something they had not thought of and change your linking style.  Thus making the web better reading for me! 🙂   Seriously, though, I think these may be helpful.  Readers:  Tell me if you disagree or offer your personal gripes in the comments — I may go back and expand or edit the list.  Thank you!

Linking Suggestions:

  • Don’t makeLink-Soup“: Filling your post full of links is a terrible idea:
    • Clutter: Link-soup looks cluttered and subtracts from the outline your post should have. (see what I mean by “outline appearance” here)
    • Dissatisfaction: Link-soup offers tons of reading that I inevitably won’t do and so my mind says “Look how much you are ignoring.”  You don’t want reader leaving feeling they are dumb, lazy and unread!  :-)
  • Make it clear why we should click your link?
    • Make it clear where your link is taking us.  I love the mouse-over option as a way to get that information when your link is not clear.  Because I expect a link to take me to an explicit explanation for the underlined item.  I don’t want to go to another long, verbose post by the author.  I just want a simple expansion of the term or idea.  OR, if it is a link to a long article, the author should tell me why I should read it.  Don’t expect me to click your links without guidance.  Using a friend’s blog as an example, in his post on Jesus’ appearance after his execution his first link is “customary-Jewish burial“.  But that link took us to his long post that discusses his thoughts about Jesus’ burial story in the NT, not about actual customary Jewish burials. Instead, I would have prefered this link on Customary Jewish Burial, and that if he felt it necessary, he could have parenthetically added a second parenthetic link to his post like this: (here is my post on Jesus’ burial).
  • Make Reference Links:
    • Consider putting your reference links at the end of the post as footnotes, notes or references.  This will help make your post less cluttered and less demanding.

So don’t link just because you can. Think about the reader. I probably link too much too.  My linking style has changed over the years.  There are probably lots of good linking styles–all different from each other (sort of like child rearing)–but there are lots of bad obvious linking styles too that most folks would agree are bad.  Again: What is your opinion?

Note: See more of my suggestions on blogging here.


Filed under Blogging

2 responses to “Using Links

  1. I agree with you about link clutter. I try not to do that. But having too few links can also be a problem. For example, I think you needed a link to a Wikipedia article (or something similar) about how to make a link. Your readers might not all know what you are talking about.

    I do not expect my readers to follow links in most my posts. I assume that most readers already have the assumed prerequisite knowledge, so the links are there only for those who don’t have that knowledge. But, of course, this is subject-matter dependent. If my post is a response to some other post, then of course I do expect them to follow the link.

    What I personally dislike, is putting references at the end. When reading a post with references to the end, I have to go to the end and lose my place. References at the end works well with print, but can be annoying for on-line publication.

  2. TWF

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Sabio! After thinking about it a bit, I would suggest that my link error was slightly different than what you describe, but it reveals some good advice as well. Let me explain:

    The whole point of the “Background” sections in my posts are to catch readers up on, or to remind readers of, what had happened in the immediately previous part of the story so there is some context. As such, I use those links are contextual reference points where readers can dig in deeper if they are not familiar with the story. I am not sure if that is the best practice, but it’s my habit anyway. 🙂

    So, how I see that I failed here is by linking on a “thing” which would be inherently interesting in and of itself; in this case, the Jewish Burial Customs. Had I, instead, chosen to link on other words in that sentence, words which hold no “thing-ness” in and of themselves, I would have avoided filling you with the expectation to find a concise, encyclopedia-style definition or explanation of the customs involved. Does that seem reasonable?

    Otherwise, yes, you don’t want link soup, and I have transgressed this rule several times. 🙂

    To Neil’s comment about putting links at the end, I have mixed feelings about it as well, for the same reason Neil described. However, it can work very well to have links at the end, and you normally do a superlative job in doing so!

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