6. Formatting Text For Emphasis

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Applying various formatting options can highlight or emphasize a selection of text. In this lesson, we show you the best practice for when to use bold, italic and underline.


Lesson Goal

Discover how and when to make your text bold, italic and underlined.

When to use bold

Use bold for any information that must capture the reader’s attention or important words or terms.

You can also use bold text to help the user to speed read. When doing this, ensure that only text which captures the meaning of a wider paragraph or sentence is bolded. Bolding an entire sentence or paragraph does not quickly convey its meaning.

When to use italic

Italics can be useful if you want to emphasize conjunctions (e.g and, or). It also can be used to indicate to the user that the text is the spoken word or a quotation.

Although it is not essential, italics is often used to distinguish foreign language words (e.g. s'il vous plaît or por favor).

Never use bold and italics together and avoid using italics with sans serif fonts as it is not easily distinguished from regular text.

When to underline

For professional documents, avoid underlining. It can make text more difficult to read and for onscreen documents, it can easily be confused with hyperlinked text.




In the previous lesson, we formatted text by changing the font, size and color. In this lesson, we'll discover how and when to format text as bold, italic or underlined. There are a few specific principles when using bold, italics or underlining. They draw attention to specific text, not whole sentences or paragraphs, so less is more.

When bolding text, consider what information must capture the reader's attention. Use bold text for important words or terms. Only use it for subsets of text which captures the meaning of the wider paragraph or sentence. The use of italics is somewhat more flexible but you should never use bold and italics together and you should never use italics with sans serif fonts.

This is because italics primarily accentuate the serifs.

Without serifs, there's little it can emphasize.

The following are optional guidelines rather than rules. You can use italics to emphasize important conjunctions like or and and. This is useful when the particular conjunction has a big effect on the meaning of the sentence.

You can use italics to indicate spoken words or quotations and you can use it for words from another language such as (speaking in foreign language) or (speaking in foreign language).

Although Word makes underling readily available, users should generally avoid underlining text.

Excessive underlining can affect readability and it also can easily be confused with hyperlinked text.

With this in mind, let's investigate the document to see if it adheres to these principles. We'll return to page two.

Here we can see that the R value section of the text makes liberal use of bold, italics and underline.

Note that the author of this document applied bold formatting to full sentences.

This fails to properly emphasize the meaning.

It shows that the sentence is important but you still have to read the entire sentence to get the meaning.

We'll fix this by selecting the sentence and typing Control + B to undo the bolding.

Let's select a smaller subset of the sentence which conveys the meaning with the minimum amount of words.

We'll then type Control + B again to make the text bold.

Next some text is italicized and some text is underlined.

As we stated previously, italics aren't very noticeable in sans serif text and underlined text can look like a hyperlink.

We'll remove the italics by selecting the text and this time typing Control + I.

We'll select a smaller subset of words and type Control + B to make the text bold instead.

We'll then use Control + U to remove the underlining, and bold a smaller subset.

Finally there's one section emphasized with both bold and italic formatting.

The author may have intended to make an extra strong emphasis.

Bold alone would suffice in creating a strong emphasis.

We'll select the text and while holding Control, we'll type I to remove the italics. Notice that our text looks much cleaner.

Using bold alone also looks sharper and more professional.

You can use italics and bold when using a serif font but it often looks better to just stick to one of them.

Let's stop the lesson here.

In the next lesson, we'll show you how to copy and paste text while keeping formatting.