The hyperlink – it’s the biggest difference between writing for the web and writing for print.
The hyperlink allows the reader to click for further information. This might not seem like much of an impact when it comes to writing, but it changes the nature of how people read. And, when people change the way they read, the way we write needs to change.
When writing for the web, we don’t have to be specific because the details are in the hyperlinks. If I’m reading a piece about how to use hyperlinks, but I don’t know what a hyperlink is, a good web writer would include a link with an explanation or even one demonstrating how links are used. The reader then has the option to explore more information or not.
When writing for print, the writer can’t offer such an option (unless the reader wants to deal with innumerable footnotes). As a result, the writer must weave the details into the content.
Web reading is more like scanning. With print, the reader requires a deeper concentration. Each form has its place.
Writers get into trouble when they confuse the two. Writing too much explanation or detail into a web piece will quickly lose readers who want their information down and dirty. Not providing enough detail in a print version leaves the reader confused and looking for more.
The hyperlink has dramatically changed access to communication along with the way people read. Yet it doesn’t work in a print environment. The hyperlink can’t do it all.