What’s the difference between URLs and links?

unclickable link

URLs are for computers.

They are specific addresses that tell the web browser where to go to fetch data and show it to you in one form or another. The URL for the FAQ page on this site is http://eng181s16.davidmorgen.org/resources-and-glossary/. The URL for the oldest post on the course blog is http://eng181s16.davidmorgen.org/davids-posts/how-do-i-use-html-to-format-comments-on-this-site-others/. With a little awareness of the syntax, you can decode that information. If you wanted to read the page or post that I just referenced, you could copy that code and paste it into your browser to get there.

Sometimes people just paste URLs into emails or pages that they’re writing, and some applications will convert those URLs into links so that you at least don’t have to go to the trouble of copying and pasting the code as separate steps to get to the pages referenced. For example, one way to show you Gavin Aung Than’s comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson would be to just do this: http://zenpencils.com/comic/150-jim-henson-a-puppeteers-advice/. However, most of the time readers will find URLs confusing and uninviting, and it’s difficult for you to effectively contextualize that information smoothly.

Links are for humans.

Links use HTML code to turn URLs into something that is readable and clear for humans. One way to create a link is manually by inserting some HTML code around text, making that text into a link, so

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s <a href=”http://zenpencils.com/comic/150-jim-henson-a-puppeteers-advice/”>brilliant comic adaptation</a> of a quote by Jim Henson.

looks like this in your browser

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s brilliant comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson.

Most of the time, though, you don’t need insert links manually. When you’re in your WordPress post editor, you can create a link by highlighting the text or image that you want to become a link and selecting the button that looks like the links of a chain, then pasting the URL into the dialog box. (The general rule of thumb, by the way, is that when you are linking to another page or post on your own site, you should have your link open in the same tab but when you are linking to something outside of your own site, have the link open in a new tab.)

This distinction between URLs and links is important for our class because our learning outcomes state that over the course of the semester, you will “demonstrate understanding of audience” and learn to “use and adapt generic conventions, including organization, development, and style” and using links instead of URLs is an important first step in understanding the reading needs of your audience and is an important stylistic and generic convention of writing for the web.

This distinction is also important because using links opens up a whole range of more interesting options for you that are unavailable when you merely drop URLs into your work. Jokes can be goofy commentaries or can offer useful insight on the topic at hand.

How do I use HTML to format comments on this site (& others)?

html

Different themes handle commenting differently, but many themes allow users to create links and other formatting while leaving comments, but only if they know how to do so manually with HTML code. There’s often no visual editor that lets you use HTML at the push of a button, the way there is when you’re in the dashboard composing posts and pages.

When you’re leaving a comment on a post on this site, there’s a line at the bottom that lists the most frequent types of HTML and formatting that you might want to use:

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=”” title=””> <abbr title=””> <acronym title=””> <blockquote cite=””> <cite> <code> <del datetime=””> <em> <i> <q cite=””> <strike> <strong>

For each of those codes, you just surround some text with the applicable HTML tags (i.e., you have an opening tag <em> (which adds emphasis), then the text you want to be emphasized, then you close the tag so that the browser knows when to stop emphasizing </em>).

Code Examples

Here are examples of how each of those codes work:

<a href=”http://eng101s15.davidmorgen.org”>course homepage</a>

<abbr title=”Hypertext Markup Language”>HTML</abbr>

<acronym title=”EWP”>Emory Writing Program</acronym>

<blockquote cite=”<cite><a href=”http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/ludwig_wittgenstein.html “> </cite> “>If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.
Ludwig Wittgenstein<blockquote>

<cite><a href=”http://eng101s15.davidmorgen.org/”></cite>

<code><a href=” “>course homepage</a></code>

<del datetime=”YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD”>This text has been deleted from the comment and there’s a time stamp to indicate when, which is not visible but is available to screen readers.</del>

<em>Emphatic!</em>

<i>Italics!</i>

<q cite=”http://eng101s15.davidmorgen.org/ “>The q cite tag allows you to provide a citation that does not show up visibly, but is available to screen readers behind the scene.</q>

<strike>This text has been struck through</strike>

<strong>Guiness for strength!</strong>

Outputs

And here’s how each of those different effects will look on this site when the comment is published:

course homepage

HTML

Emory Writing Program

If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

http://eng101s15.davidmorgen.org/

<a href=" "> </a>

This text has been deleted from the comment and there’s a time stamp to indicate when, which is not visible but is available to screen readers.

Emphatic!

Italics!

The q cite tag allows you to provide a citation that does not show up visibly, but is available to screen readers behind the scene.

This text has been struck through

Guiness for strength!