By Judy Vorfeld
Did you know that, for many years, authors underlined text merely as a way to instruct typesetters to italicize words? Then along came desktop publishing (DTP), which made underlining popular as a way of providing emphasis. It’s often used that way today, but is no longer acceptable in many typographical circles.
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.
Bolding on paper can be overdone, but when used cautiously, it is worthwhile. You’re more likely to bold headings and sub-headings than parts of a sentence. QUICK TIP: Select text you want bolded, then use keystroke combo Ctrl+B. On to the Web…
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.
Italicizing works beautifully on paper with ink_jet and laser printer resolutions at 300 dpi or
higher. QUICK TIP: Select text you want italicized, then use keystroke combo Ctrl+I.
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.