A few years ago, I wrote an arti­cle about the overuse of bold and ital­ics when empha­siz­ing some­thing. In sum­ma­ry, when using too much bold or ital­ics, the log­ic of the empha­sis is com­plete­ly lost and the whole point of using empha­sis is mut­ed.

This week­end, some­one asked me on Twit­ter in rela­tion to this arti­cle when is it more effec­tive to use under­lin­ing and bold for empha­sis. Below are my sug­ges­tions for using under­line, ital­ics, and bold for empha­sis:

1. Underline

I high­ly sug­gest avoid­ing under­lin­ing as empha­sis if at all pos­si­ble. The use of under­lin­ing to indi­cate links on web­sites has expro­pri­at­ed this for­mat­ting style. This has become so ingrained that users assume any under­lined text is auto­mat­i­cal­ly a link.

Nev­er use under­lin­ing for empha­sis online. Even offline (in print), I’d sug­gest replac­ing it with ital­ics.

2. Italics

Ital­ics is the younger sib­ling or the side­kick of bold. It gets the job done, but not near­ly as aggres­sive­ly. If you have to empha­size some­thing, turn to ital­ics first. See if it does the job well.

3. Bold

Reserve bold usage for the most emphat­ic points. Use it spar­ing­ly, so it can be effec­tive.

Remem­ber, just because you think some­thing is super impor­tant doesn’t mean the read­er will. Try to be objec­tive when choos­ing empha­sis. Don’t just auto­mat­i­cal­ly dive for bold each time you want to empha­size some­thing.

What do you think about cre­at­ing empha­sis in your writ­ing? Leave your thoughts below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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