Underlining, Bolding, and Italicizing

By Judy Vorfeld

Why? Underlining inter­feres with descen­ders, those thin­gies on let­ters that drop below the line: p, q, j, etc. Underlining sub­tly sab­o­tages the reader’s abil­ity to read with ease. One good way to pro­vide empha­sis: use bold. Carefully.

Web design fol­lowed DTP, and here again, the rules changed. Or are chang­ing. In addi­tion to inter­fer­ing with descen­ders, there’s another prob­lem. Most hyper­links on Web sites are under­lined, and peo­ple expect to be able to click away on under­lined text. Why not avoid under­lin­ing text you want empha­sized, and go for the bold. Or color. And if you use color, make sure you use the hex code rather than the name of the color. Older browsers some­times insist on the hex code and if it’s not there, they will default to black.

QUICK TIP: Select text you want ital­i­cized, then use key­stroke combo Ctrl+I.


Experts say that peo­ple scan text on the Web more than when read­ing text printed on paper. Thoughtful use of bold­ing in text is good. Where too much bold­ing might look inap­pro­pri­ate in a busi­ness let­ter, it might be fine on the Web. Again, use your judge­ment. Make it easy for the reader to catch your impor­tant points, though, but don’t sat­u­rate your page with it. Some peo­ple bold every­thing on a page. This is some­what sim­i­lar to typ­ing in all caps, which is called “shout­ing.” Try giv­ing a pleas­ing rhythm to the voice and look of your text.


Don’t ital­i­cize on the Web if you can help it. Most ital­i­ciz­ing is dif­fi­cult to read. Your text is there only to help vis­i­tors inter­act with you. Everything you cre­ate, on paper and on the Web, should be con­sid­ered a pre­sen­ta­tion. Create with the end user in mind.


  • Internet Brothers
  • Desktop Publishing: Wikipedia
  • About.com DTP Section

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