Hyperlinks are useful navigation tools that provide readers access to additional information about a topic. They can even help users jump from one part of a long PDF document to another.
Note: This post targets folks who have an interest in and/or experience with working on accessibility. If you don’t fall into this audience, I still recommend reading through for some insight on making information accessible to all.
You may already know that meaningful link text makes for an accessible read as I discuss in my post about strategies for accessible documents. If you want to help readers learn more about a topic, you would link to the topic itself and not something like “learn more” or “click here.”
Example of meaningful link text: Go to the CDC website for more information about flu prevention.
In the example above, I have linked to “information about flu prevention” so that readers know exactly what the link is about. If I had linked to “CDC website” or “more information,” readers would be unsure about what, specifically, the link would take them to.
The problem with two-line links
A problem you may not be aware of, however, is the length of hyperlinks. Specifically, I’m talking about link text that breaks across two lines (or more?) of text.
It doesn’t matter much in a Word document, but you should know that these types of links cause problems for PDF accessibility remediation. The problem with links that break to a second line is that PDF readers, notably Adobe Acrobat, like to provide two link tags for the same link.
And why is this a problem? It’s a problem because the screen reader then reads them off as two separate links, thus confusing the user.
In some cases, we can’t avoid this happening. For that there is a fix for double links provided by accessibility guru Dax Castro—skip to minute 5:45 for the detailed tutorial in Acrobat. In this post, though, I’m more concerned with how to avoid double links at all.
What to do with long link text
To avoid having long link text that breaks to a second line, we have a couple solutions.
1. Link to the most specific and relevant information.
That is, focus on the most meaningful text and link to that. Something like “resources page on Acme Brothers’ recall response” could be shortened to “Acme Brothers’ recall response” or even just “recall response” if Acme Brothers is a main topic in the story.
2. Insert a nonbreaking space or hyphen.
Use this strategy when one word appears on a line by itself, or that word breaks at a hyphen. For example, in “solutions to everyday problems,” delete the space after “solutions” and insert a nonbreaking space there.
Or, in “empty-handed college students,” delete the hyphen and insert a nonbreaking hyphen in “empty-handed.”
As you have seen here, writing meaningful text is just the beginning when providing accessible hyperlinks. The next step is to ensure that the links can be remediated efficiently in a digital document.
If you only have one or two links to worry about, Dax’s fix I mentioned earlier is not such a heavy lift. However, if you have multiple links breaking across lines, it’s best to set them up properly in Word first. Then you can just remediate the ones (hopefully, only a handful) that can’t be modified.
To get regular tips on freelancing, editing, and accessibility as well as access to my ebook Quick Guide to Freelancing, sign up for my biweekly newsletter. You can also follow me on social media by clicking on one of the links in the sidebar. You can also check out my online courses on editing, proofreading, and time management.