For a long time now I’ve given a talk called “Links as Language: How to Write in Three Dimensions,” which I’m just now getting around to writing down somewhere. The upshot is to get you to think of links as a writing tool, the same way you would a metaphor or a comma. It’s kind of a long talk (which often evolves into a really interesting discussion) so I’m going to post it in small chunks over the next few weeks. Enjoy and discuss.
Look at the following two sentences.
|Does this really deserve this much coverage?||Does this really deserve|
The sentence on the left doesn’t actually make any sense. It is, in fact, grammatically incorrect (it’s missing a subject). The sentence on the right has the same grammatical shortcomings but it makes intuitive sense because you know how to make it make sense. Just click on the links. The links, even before they’re clicked, confer meaning. And whenever you have a symbol that confers meaning, you have language.
Let’s take another example.
|i guess i should update my status more often.||i guess i should update my status more often.|
This is from a friend’s blog (here’s the original post). Here the sentence on the left makes sense, it’s just not very interesting. Okay, you should update your status more often. Why? The sentence on the right seems more complete because the link suggests context. Again, you don’t need to click on the link (and thus know the context) to have the sentence seem more meaningful; just knowing that you could know the context (and thus that there is one) allows it to stand on its own better than its cousin to the left.
(If you’re curious as to the context, you may, of course, click on the link.)
In our next installment: How links are changing the way we read.