What Are Descriptive Links?

Hyperlinks should make sense when taken out of context. A person listening to the text with a screen reader can pull all of the links on a page together into a list and navigate them much more efficiently from the list. If link text is not descriptive, it will be unclear where the links lead.

  • Links such as “Click here” or “Read more” don't give any context and there may be multiple per page.

On the other hand, link text such as “Declaration of Independence” and “Thomas Jefferson” are helpful because they tell you where they're going, and they're succinct.

Video: Links List with JAWS (Screen Reader)

Video: Ambiguous Links with JAWS

Another form of non-descriptive links are long urls. These begin with http://... and are difficult for anyone to read. They are especially cumbersome for someone who is listening to the page.

Video: Long URLs with JAWS

How to Add Descriptive Link Text in Specific Platforms

Making Links Descriptive in Canvas

  • In the text editor, click on the Links icon or use the Insert menu to add a link.

Link options sidebar with "text" and "link" entry boxes

  • Write the descriptive text in the “Text” box.
  • Write the link address in the “Link” box.

Insert Link window with "text" and "link" entry boxes

Another method of adding a descriptive link is to edit an existing link instead of inserting a new one.

  • Click on the existing link and select Link Options.

Canvas Link options menu

  • In the Link Options window, ensure that the Text field contains descriptive text.

Insert Menu, Link, External Links

Video: Adding Descriptive Links in Canvas

Descriptive Links in Microsoft Office

To format links in Microsoft Office, Select the link text. On the Insert Ribbon, click Hyperlink.

Insert ribbon showing hyperlink option

Type the text that will actually be displayed in your document in the Text to Display field.

Type the actual link in the Address field. This is the link that will be followed.

Insert hyperlink window showing text to display

Descriptive Links in WordPress

Most text editors for web content have a button on the toolbar for inserting or editing hyperlinks. You can select text and convert it to a link, or you can simply paste a link and then edit to add descriptive text. Below is an example of how to do this in WordPress, although other text editors will be slightly different.

In WordPress, select the link text, then click on the Insert/Edit Link icon.

WordPress Insert/edit link button (Ctrl+K)

Click on the settings button to get more Link Options.

WordPress Link options button on insert link dialog

In the Link options window, enter the destination URL and the descriptive link text in the appropriate fields. Once these are both added, click Update to apply changes.

WordPress edit link options, showing separate fields for URL and Link Text, and Update button to apply changes.