Tip of the Week: Tricky Text

Text in Link Clothing

Web visitors have come to expect that underlined text means a link that will take them somewhere – to another page, another Web site or another location on the page they’re reading. Using the underline on text that is not a link is confusing.

How This Happens

The problem is, that underlining is used frequently for emphasis in word processing documents. And much of what we put on the Web, started life in one of those documents.

So, when we copy and paste that text into a Web page, unfortunately, that formatting stays in place. We end up with underlined text that is not a link and run the very great risk of frustrating some of our visitors.

Screen shot of the editors' toolbar showing the remove formatting and paste from text buttons

How to Fix This

There are several and easy ways to remove any underlining from text that is not a link.

  • Remove all underlining from your document before you copy the text.
  • Use the “Paste as plain text” button in the editor toolbar, though this will strip all formatting, not just the underlining.
  • Use the “Remove formatting” button.  Highlight the text with the underlining, click the button, and the underlining will be removed. If you don’t see this button in your editor toolbar, contact University Relations and we will add it for you.

How to Avoid Confusion

If you want to emphasize a line or a word, don’t underline it. Make it bold. If it is a very short phrase made up of two to five words, then using italics would be another way to emphasize the text. Blobs of text in italics can be very hard to read and so can a single word in italics – another tip!

Or you could set the *phrase in asterisks* as another way to draw attention. That’s a throwback to the early days of the Web when asterisks were sometimes used for emphasis, but it does the trick without confusing your visitor.

If you find text on your Web pages that is underlined but not a link, and you aren’t sure how to remove it, just contact University Relations and we’ll help you sort things out.

Links Are Signposts

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to making links accessible. Links are the essence of the Web, aren’t they – when you think about it? They’re the doors we open to get to our next location. If the link is done well, we know exactly what our destination will be when we click it. If the link is not well-constructed, we may not have a clue where it will lead.

Look for “Links” to be a frequent topic for the “Tip of the Week”.

What Do You Want To Know?

These tips are designed to help us all better understand the requirements of our Web Accessibility Policy and to offer some shortcuts and hints that will help you as you create and update your Web sites.

Questions and suggestions for future hints are welcome! Just send an email or fill out our online form.