April 30, 2016

Links as Language Part Four: The Art of the Link

Previously, on “Links as Language”:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

If we’re going to talk about links as a writing tool as we would a metaphor or a comma, then we should be able to talk about best practices as we would a metaphor or a comma.  The goal of these practices, as often as not, should be to artfully convey meaning, and I can think of one example that accomplishes this goal quite well.

One of the hallmarks of good writing is a compelling structure, and, as it turns out, you can use links to create structure:

In this blog post by Audrey Gray, you can read the entire article without clicking on one link and it holds its own as a piece about the evolution of a camera line. However, if you want to search for added resonance, you can click on the link in the second paragraph:

But most importantly, Andre Agassi, circa 1990, had a Canon Rebel.

This link (and I suggest you click on it before you read what follows to get the full effect) takes us to video of a mullet-donning Agassi hawking an old-school Rebel. (Extra points to Gray for linking to video and showing the versatility of the tool.) The sister link to this link appears in the last paragraph:

It’s been a great show, watching these two hot shots come of age.

This link (again, click on it first) takes us to a completely shorn Agassi hawking his Foundation for Education. Without actually saying, “Agassi used to look silly and hawk cameras and now he’s all growns up and helps kids in a classy way—he, like the camera, has evolved,” Gray allows you to discover this parallel on your own, if you wish, with websites instead of words. You lose nothing functionally if you never click on those links, but if you do you see a beginning and an end expressed by the destinations of those links and the context in which they are linked that underscores the larger theme. This is creating narrative structure through hyperlinks.

Next: Evolving technology evolves best practices.


  1. Ari says:

    Hey David,

    Just wanted to let you know I summarized your pieces so far and reblogged it here: http://upphilly.com/2011/08/links-as-language-analysis-by-david-dylan-thomas/

    Good luck getting to SXSW. That would be huge!

  2. David says:

    Ari, thanks so much!


  1. [...] Next: A Case Study—Links as Langauge best practices. [...]

  2. [...] I’ll be speaking at the Wharton Web Conference on July 15th. I’ll be giving a talk called Links as Language, which you may know from these parts. [...]

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