Hypertext

Hypertext is an idea developed by a computer scientist named Ted Nelson in the late 1960s, and is defined simply as "non-linear reading."

Whereas traditional writing on paper tends to be linear — you start at the beginning, and go through to the end — it needn't be; it can, in fact, be designed to let you jump around between related ideas. This is possible on paper — the "See Also" section of an encylcopedia entry is the same idea, as are the "choose-your-own-adventure" books ("If you want to open the door, turn to page 73") — but it's cumbersome.

But with computer technology, it's easy to direct readers to related ideas. This computer-based glossary is hypertextual: I can refer you to terms like Alexandrine and Postmodern, and you can go directly there — and once there, you can follow links elsewhere. Text turns into a web of connections, and the reader chooses which connections to follow.

The World Wide Web is a huge collection of hypertext documents, where each page on the Web can refer to any other page on the Web.


From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.