Hypertext literacy, what is it?


On completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • define key concepts pertaining to hypertext literacy
  • understand and explain how hyperlinks can affect a text, its reading, understanding and credibility
  • select resources for the classroom and design hypertext literacy tasks for your students


Hypertext, hyperlinks, hypermedia…



Some definitions

Here are some definitions from the The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary:


Hypertext is text that links to other information. By clicking on a link in a hypertext document, a user can quickly jump to different content. Though hypertext is usually associated with Web pages, the technology has been around since the 1960s. Software programs that include dictionaries and encyclopedias have long used hypertext in their definitions so that readers can quickly find out more about specific words or topics. Apple Computer’s HyperCard program also used hypertext, which allowed users to create multi-linked databases. Today, the Web is where hypertext reigns, where nearly every page includes links to other pages and both text and images can be used as links to more content. Source: TechTerms: hypertext


A hyperlink is a word, phrase, or image that you can click on to jump to a new document or a new section within the current document. Hyperlinks are found in nearly all Web pages, allowing users to click their way from page to page. Text hyperlinks are often blue and underlined, but don’t have to be. When you move the cursor over a hyperlink, whether it is text or an image, the arrow should change to a small hand pointing at the link. When you click it, a new page or place in the current page will open.Hyperlinks, often referred to as just “links,” are common in Web pages, but can be found in other hypertext documents. These include certain encyclopedias, glossaries, dictionaries, and other references that use hyperlinks. The links act the same way as they do on the Web, allowing the user to jump from page to page. Basically, hyperlinks allow people to browse information at hyperspeed. Source: TechTerms: hyperlinks
Most Web navigation is done by clicking text-based links that open new pages in a Web browser. These links, which are often blue and underlined, are referred to as hypertext, since they allow the user to jump from page to page. Hypermedia is an extension of hypertext that allows images, movies, and Flash animations to be linked to other content.The most common type of hypermedia is an image link. Photos or graphics on the Web are often linked to other pages. For example, clicking a small “thumbnail” image may open a larger version of the picture in a new window. Clicking a promotional graphic may direct you to an advertiser’s website. Flash animations and videos can also be turned into hyperlinks by embedding one or more links that appear during playback.You can tell if an image or video is a hyperlink by moving the cursor over it. If the cursor changes into a small hand, that means the image or video is linked to another page. Clicking the text, image, or video will open up a new location in your Web browser. Therefore, you should only click a hypertext or hypermedia link when you are ready to leave the current page. If you want to open the link in a new window, you can usually right click the link and select “Open Link in New Window.” Source: TechTerms: hypermedia


Natalya Sinitskaya summarises the features of hypertext as follows:

Multilinearity: Hypertexts present information in an non-ordered, which destroys textual hierarchies (reading paragraph after paragraph, for example).
Intertextuality: The reader can make connections with the same text and a number of other texts.
Multiple authorship and multivocality: When the information is transmitted through a number of texts, the authors are many and this allows different opinions to be communicated.
Dematerialisation and virtuality: The text is no longer bound between two covers, but exists in the form of code in a virtual environment.
Interactivity: The interactive nature of hypertext is twofold: it creates a possibility for a reader to create his or her own path through the text and construct his or her own meaning; on the other hand, this feature assumes interaction with the text, where readers can edit, delete or modify blocks of text, add their comments and participate in online surveys and discussions.

So, what is hypertext literacy?

Rhetorically, links exert a subtle persuasiveness, highlighting a document’s key points, reinforcing its major arguments, and offering a snapshot of its openness and credibility. Navigationally, links demand that readers decide whether to accept invitations to go beyond the current text and take responsibility for choosing their own narrative pathways on the wider web. (Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum, 2013: 11)

Too many links in a document can add to the reader’s cognitive load (thus affecting the readability of a document) and create a false impression that the document is credible. Too few links should also alert the reader about possible credibility issues. Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum (2013: 11) define hypertext literacy as “the ability to process hyperlinks appropriately and to use hyperlinks effectively to enhance a document or artefact”. Natalya Sinitskaya identifies two broad sets of fundamental skills that readers of hypertext must possess, interactive reading skills and text navigation skills.

  • Interactive reading skills. According to Natalya Sinitskaya, “hypertext engages readers in active interaction with the text on inter and intra-textual levels. The process of interaction requires a set of skills that is quite different from traditional print-based literacy” (Reading hypertext). These are:
    • Non-sequential reading
    • Critical reading
    • Reader-centered encounter with the text
    • Collaboration with the author
    • Manipulation skills
  • Text navigation skills. Three sets of skills are needed to effectively navigate through a hypertextual environment (Natalya Sinistkaya):
    • Accessing information
    • Browsing
    • Orientation in the cyberspace

Enhancing a document with hyperlinks require writers to be aware of the key features of hypertext and of the possible impact this may have on their readers’ interpretation of their text. Some basic knowledge of HTML is also an advantage!



In your everyday practice, you may not need to create website from scratch as most LMS platforms will provide you with a rich text editor. It is however a good idea to have some basic knowledge of HTML so that you can resolve some problems. If you want to learn HTML, you will find plenty of tutorials on the Web. You could try the w3schools site, and more specifically the Learn HTML section. You will find everything you need to know to insert links in a digital text.


Hypertext literacy in the language classroom



To help students develop their hypertext literacies, why not give them web based projects in their target language? Hyperlinks and hypermedia will enhance a blog post, an email message, a PowerPoint presentation, etc. The table below gives you an overview of the activities you will find on this site. Just click on the links! And don’t forget to check the list of language specific resources at the bottom of this page.


Context of useTitleRelated themesLanguages
OverviewHypertext literacy, what is it?EN (outline) ES FR IT
Activities for the classroom
Reading hypertextsReading strategies: raising awareness; Year AbroadEN FR IT
Writing hypertextsWriting strategies: using blogsEN (outline) FR GA IT
Independent learning
Hypertext literacy, what is it?Other language literacies, Reading and writing (FR), Listening comprehension, note taking (FR)EN FR GA IT


Related literacies






Source/attribution: Digilanguages          Author: Alexandre Jacquot

Here are some additional resources in English. They may help you learn more about the terminology used in English and practices in the English speaking world. You can also use them to design activities for your international students.

Definitions in English

  • online dictionary 1
  • online dictionary 2
  • YouTube video explaining the vocabulary of the Internet?


Learn some basic HTML in English

  • Tutorial 1
  • Tutorial 2 (focus on inserting links?)

Additional resources in English

  • Links to more complex documents (e.g. recordings of lectures, critical essays on hypertext reading, etc.)

Voici quelques ressources supplémentaires en français.

Vous pouvez les utiliser pour mieux connaître la terminologie utilisée en français ainsi que pour avoir un aperçu des usages francophones. Vous pouvez également les utiliser pour construire des activités pour vos étudiants.

Définitions en français



Apprendre HTML en français!

Pour aller plus loin

Hier einige deutsche Quellen zum Thema Hyperlink

Zur Bedeutungsübersicht:

Hier ein Tutorium zum Erstellen von Hyperlinks auf

Wer Html lernen möchte, kann hier einen Link zum entsprechenden Tutorium finden.

Sehr anschaulich erklärt auch dieses Video den Begriff Hypertext und gibt eine Einführung in Html.

Zum Weiterlesen:

Ecco alcune risorse supplementari che vi aiuteranno a rinforzare la vostra conoscenza della terminologia utilizzata in italiano in questo contesto.

Definizioni e glossario:

Definizioni in italiano (dal sito dell’Università di Torino):

  1. Cos’è l’ipertesto
  2. Cos’è un link

Definizioni in italiano dal sito web pc-facile:

  1. Definizione di ipertesto
  2. Definizione di ipermedia

Può essere utile anche questo Glossario Informatico dell’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia in formato pdf.

Da vedere:

Nel video che segue potete trovare alcuni termini informatici di uso quotidiano, in italiano:

Apprendere HTML in italiano:

Qui potete trovare i tutorial di in italiano. In particolare:

Author: Valentina Rizzo


Source/attribution: Digilanguages          Author: Valentina Rizzo

En el siguiente enlace puedes encontrar un diccionario de términos informáticos:

Glosario informático



También puedes leer el siguiente artículo sobre los términos informáticos que la Real Academia de la Lengua ha aceptado.


Source/attribution: Digilanguages          Author: Marta Giralt