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Link text & writing
Create meaningful hyperlink text
Descriptive links improve page usability as they act as scanning cues for sighted users, and accurately convey purpose and function for non-sighted users. Descriptive links also provides search engines context and relationships between link text and link destinations, which is good for search engine optimization (SEO).
- Hyperlink text should give an indication about where it will take you, even out of context. For example, "Visits and Tours" versus "Click here to learn more."
- Link text should describe the destination of the link, or the action to be performed.
- Avoid the words "click here or learn more." These links do not mean anything out of context.
- When possible, it is a good practice placing hyperlinks towards the end of a sentence. This way you can 'introduce' the link without having to scan or read the sentence again.
- Be succinct.
- Use bullets or lists to highlight key information or related links.
- Use lists, headings and paragraphs to break up blocks of text.
- Use clear, simple and plain language.
- Add summaries and images to help convey meaning.
- Use short sentences and common words.
Things to avoid
- All caps. IT MIGHT APPEAR YOU ARE YELLING.
- Acronyms (unless you provide expanded form).
- Slang, jargon or idioms.
Inclusive language is language that is free from terminology, tones or phrases that reflect stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups. Explore the following inclusive language guidelines:
- (PDF file) Inclusive Language in Media: A Canadian Style Guide (external link) by Humber College.
- Includes guidance and terminology when speaking about persons with disabilities.
- (PDF file) Words Matter: Guidelines on using inclusive language in the workplace (external link) by British Columbia Public Service.
- Includes guidance on writing about culture, ancestry, religion, marital/family status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.
Relevant WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria
Using descriptive links is a Level A success criteria, which is required for conformance with WCAG 2.0 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Level AAA is not required.
- 2.4.4 Link Purpose (In Context) (Level A): (external link) The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.
- 2.4.9 Link Purpose (Link Only) (Level AAA): (external link) A mechanism is available to allow the purpose of each link to be identified from link text alone, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.
- 3.1.3 Unusual Word (Level AAA): (external link) A mechanism is available for identifying specific definitions of words or phrases used in an unusual or restricted way, including idioms and jargon.
- 3.1.4 Abbreviations (Level AAA): (external link) A mechanism for identifying the expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is available.
- 3.1.5 Reading Level (Level AAA): (external link) When text requires reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level after removal of proper names and titles, supplemental content, or a version that does not require reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level, is available.
- 3.1.6 Pronunciation (Level AAA): (external link) A mechanism is available for identifying specific pronunciation of words where meaning of the words, in context, is ambiguous without knowing the pronunciation.
- 7 Tips for Presenting Bulleted Lists in Digital Content (external link, opens in new window) by Nielsen Norman Group.
- Opening Links in New Browser Windows and Tabs (external link) by Nielsen Norman Group.
- Article discusses when it's appropriate to make links open in new tabs.