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The logic of linking

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is the not-original-with-me understanding of linking that I share with the web writers in my class.

I would like to reinforce one of the basic elements of web writing and remind you that it should be part of your writing all semester–this is a review from our last class and so you might not need this reminder. If so, file it away with my apology. Here goes:

The web is a place where people win readers to their cause by a variety of rhetorical (persuasive) strategies, among the most important of which is linking.

If you recommend or even mention a site or an article on a site, whether you are writing in Twitter or WordPress or some other social media tool, savvy web readers expect a link to the article.

They expect a link to the article first–not a link to the site–because they don’t want to go hunting for the article on the site. Include a second link, to the whole site, if that seems useful. The first link is mandatory, the second is optional.

If you don’t provide a link with your writing, readers will probably figure–rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly–that you are one of the following things: unskilled or unsophisticated about how the web works; indifferent to building a community of readers; unfriendly; too rushed to do a good job; lazy; etc. It might be an unfair judgment, but experienced web users will probably make one of those judgments nonetheless.

HAPPILY, it is very easy to win praise instead of blame with your web writing. Include links in your writing. Become known as someone who generously and helpfully provides links. You will have increasing numbers of fans if you do. Your cause will prosper.

These links should be to quality content or to content you are thoughtfully rebutting in your own posting. These links should help people advance their understanding of your issue.

Readers do not want links to sites you haven’t evaluated. If you are recommending a site, you imply that you have evaluated it and you imply that it is worth your reader’s time. Live up to this expectation.

And readers expect the links to work. Test them to make sure they do after you post anything on Twitter or WordPress or Facebook, etc.

PS. Advanced web writers not only provide working links to good sites, they also tell people what they will get out of clicking the link.

They don’t say: “This is a good link for food lovers.” They say: “This site has three virtues: good recipes for grits, a sense of humor about learning to cook, and an active community of readers who share their own tips.”

Advanced web writers would probably also include either three or four links in that longer sentence, to connect readers to the particular parts of the general site–exactly where examples of those virtues are displayed. Again, they link to the good thing they are recommending, in particular. Precision is one of the beauties of the Internet.

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