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The right way to write links

One way you can declutter and simplify your writing (whether it is a quick email or a full-scale report) is to use hyperlinks to supporting material.

The problem is that URLs to webpages and so on are not usually short or user friendly. It is possible to use a URL shortening service like Bitly to get a shorter URL and, if you pay, you might get something that is customised to your organisation.

The big advantage of including a URL in your text is that it is obvious to the reader that there is a link to something, even if they are only scanning your text. The downsides are that it may not be obvious where the link leads and it ruins the flow of your sentences.

Better then, to attach your URLs to some anchor text in your writing. Now your sentences make sense and formatting can indicate there is a clickable link.

But there’s more to it than that. Here are my 6 tips for getting your anchor text and links right.

Keep the anchor text short. Aim for 5 words or fewer. A one or two-word link can work well but can also be missed by readers who are quickly scanning the text.

Include a verb in the anchor text if you can because that gives you an action-oriented link. Sometimes when you are linking to a document as a reference or source you could use a verb in a phrase like “read more about X”. Sometimes this won’t work and you might use the document’s title as the anchor text.

Avoid using “click here” as your anchor text. Use text that is more descriptive of the destination.

Don’t overdo it. Use them sparingly. It’s better to include only links that truly add value rather than spraying them around so that almost every sentence has one.

Use formatting that makes the link stand out from the surrounding text. Generally, stick with the default formatting in your app because it will work. Customise the fonts and colours only if you know what you are doing and are changing it for all links in the document. If links are not consistently formatted the reader might not know when something is a link and when it isn’t.

Be accessible. Use the alt text feature to write a description of the linked content. When a read mouses over the anchor text they will see the alt text rather than the actual URL.

Happy linking.

Gary Bandy Limited is a company registered in Cardiff, number 5660437.

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