The Grapes of Wrath: it’s all about the turtle!
—The Internet: it’s all about hyperlinks!

Hyperlinks are one of the most important inventions of the last hundred years (Paul Otlet, 1934… worth remembering!). You don’t need to know any code to use the Internet, but Web literacy means knowing how to consume and produce Web content. Producing Web content requires not just speaking but connecting. If you want to connect, you have to know how to make a link.

I showed my Speech 101 students how to code hyperlinks in HTML today. Only a minority among my tech-savvy, Tablet-armed DSU students appeared to be familiar with the process, so the lesson is worth repeating.

There are lots of WYSIWYG editors with their own little buttons and shortcuts for inserting links (Ctrl+K in Word; Ctrl+Shift+A in Blogger; Alt+Shift+K in WordPress). But if you’re in a plain text editor and can’t find the magic button, you need a little HTML. Here are the steps:

  1. Decide which text you want to turn into a hyperlink. For instance, suppose I have the sentence Our president Dr. Knowlton said it was an “awesome” year and I want to make Dr. Knowlton said a hyperlink to his blog.
  2. Right before the text you want to “linkify,” enter the following tag:
    <a href="">

    e.g.:

    Our president <a href="">Dr. Knowlton said it was....
  3. Right after the text you want to linkify, enter the following tag:
    </a>

    e.g.:

    Our president <a href="">Dr. Knowlton said</a> it was....
  4. Now, switch to the web page you want your link to open when a reader clicks on it.
  5. Up in the browser address bar, select the URL—you know, the stuff at the top, next the buttons, all that “http://www…&#8221; stuff. In this case, I want this URL:
    http://presidentspage.blogspot.com/2009/04/reflections.html
  6. Copy that URL.
  7. Switch back to the window where you are building this link.
  8. Paste the URL into the quote marks in the <a href=””> tag:
    <a href="paste your URL here!">

    e.g.:

    Our president <a href="http://presidentspage.blogspot.com/2009/04/reflections.html">Dr. Knowlton s aid</a> it was....

That should do it! Hit Submit or Publish or whatever the button says, and your content should appear in your browser like this:

Our president Dr. Knowlton said it was an awesome year.

Click on the link—zoom! awesome! your browser jumps to the page!

And thus began a revolution in human communication.

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Bonus tricks:

  • Want your link to open a new browser window? Some people hate this, but others like to have the new document open in a separate window while leaving the original open. If you want/dare to make this happen, add the target=”_blank” attribute to the <a> tag:
    <a href="http://www.nytimes.com" target="_blank">

    click here to see this tag in action

  • Little pop-up messages on links are another love-’em-or-hate-’em feature. I like to add them to alert folks a link opens a PDF or to sneak in a comment. I’ve also used them to provide English-teacher commentary on corrections to an online essay. To add such a message, add the title=”message” attribute to the <a> tag:
    <a href="http://www.nytimes.com" title="a really impressive newspaper">
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