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Hyperlinks 101

January 1, 2019 By Adrienne Montgomerie ACES News

Hyperlinks are clickable areas of a screen that take you to another part of a document or to a website. Anyone who has been on a website is familiar with hyperlinks (now called simply “links”). It’s how we navigate the web. Behind the clickable words or image is the code for a universal resource locator (URL). If you’ve been online, you’ve likely seen a URL at the top of your web browser, showing “addresses” that start with character strings such as http://www.

Links can be embedded in documents as well as in websites. The method of doing this has become just about standard across word processors such as Word and Google Docs and in website content management tools such as WordPress:

  1. Find the URL you want the link to go to, then copy it.
  2. Place the words or image to be linked.
  3. Select the words or image to be linked.
  4. Press ctrl + K (cmd + K on a Mac).
  5. Paste the URL (ctrl + V, or cmd + V on a Mac).
  6. Press enter.
Jj Ying 215308 Unsplash
(JJ Ying, Unsplash)

What to link

If the text to be linked is a URL itself, you might only need to press enter after the URL is typed. Many programs will automatically turn that URL into a hyperlink. This practice that is out of fashion, however, but still sometimes desired. More favored these days is linking natural text rather than a URL, and definitely never linking the words “click here.”

For search engine optimization (SEO that makes a website rank higher in the search results), the preference is to make the link descriptive of the content readers will find by clicking the link. For example, text that says “you can find a list of keyboard shortcuts on our site” might make the underlined words into the link.

If you want a single word to be the link, some programs don’t even make you select the word first (step 3). Just place the cursor in the word to be linked and do step 4 onward. The program automatically selects the word and makes it a clickable link.

Creating links in PDFs

Adobe always uses its own shortcuts, and making a hyperlink in a PDF is either dead easy or requires 5 steps. The dead easy version is that any URL in a PDF is automatically clickable* in Adobe Reader. The multi-step version involves telling Acrobat to create a link using the Edit tools, selecting the area of the page, telling it what action to do (open a web page or go to another part of the document), and then pasting the URL in the dialog box. This function only works in Acrobat Pro, not in the free Reader version.

*The caveat about Adobe’s automatically clickable URLs is, though, that URLs that are split over a line break will be broken and even if you try to manually place a link over that area of the page, the auto-generated link will interfere with usability. For this reason, clickable words are preferable to URLs in an interactive PDF.


This article was originally posted on the Copyediting website, Sept. 17, 2018.

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