In which occasions you would like to use italics in web design? Because the use of bold fonts is quite obvious not sure about italics.

  • ummm on Christmas :D in short when u want to grab user's attention just change the normal font to the styled one...
    – Jack
    Mar 17, 2011 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


From a technical standpoint, you should use italics whenever writing titles of books or films. Things like that.

Italics are used for emphasis. When you want to draw attention to a word. Which is similar to bold, but italics doesn't seem to "jump out" as much. You should never italics a whole paragraph or other huge chunk of text. But you can use it as part of a layout. You could italicize your title, for instance.

Creatively, there's a lot of directions you could go in, in my opinion. But, don't overuse it either.

Here are some resources on topics for italics:



All in all, it's a personal aesthetic decision. If it looks good, keep it. If it doesn't, kill it.

  • It is a little bit more than an aesthetic decision. Italics, especially when displayed on a computer monitor in a sans-serif typeface, are measurably more difficult to read. If your intention is to convey information, then avoid setting large blocks of text in italics.
    – horatio
    Mar 15, 2011 at 17:52
  • 1
    When something is more difficult to read, that directly impacts the aesthetics because aesthetics is how things look. So if your type becomes unreadable, it's very much an aesthetic decision.
    – Hanna
    Mar 15, 2011 at 20:37
  • Your definition of aesthetics is overly broad.
    – horatio
    Mar 15, 2011 at 21:29
  • Is it though? "If it looks good, keep it. If it doesn't, kill it." I would assume that if a block of italics text is difficult to read, it also doesn't look good. Your eyes don't like it. In addition I also specifically mentioned that you shouldn't use italics on large blocks of text. So I'm a little confused as to what exactly your point is.
    – Hanna
    Mar 15, 2011 at 21:33
  • My point is that a "personal aesthetic decision" should be more informed. Your "looks good" metric frequently fails (See: dpgraph.com). In the case of italics, there is a good reason not to use it /en mass/ which is not a purely aesthetic decision. Legibility falls outside of the definition of aesthetics.
    – horatio
    Mar 15, 2011 at 21:43

I often use strong for keywords and keyphrases after reading somewhere that indexing bots take "strong" and "em" tags into account (I have not been able to tell if it is indeed the case. But it prompted me to take emphasis into account).

I use the two elements for different levels of emphasis. I like to think the strong-taged words to be relevant if you were to summarize the content. whereas em-taged words would come into play for a different kind of emphasis.

I used em once for names in texts which at the same time were links to profile pages of these people. So I use em for another kind of emphasis. This use however, might make more sense if

<em level="1"></em>
<em level="2"></em>

actually existed.

This has nothing to do with grammar or proper use of the language. It even might be wrong :) It's just my two cents on the matter. Hope this helps you anyway.

  • 1
    <em> indicates emphasis, <strong> indicates stronger emphasis. So there are indeed two levels of emphasis. They are rendered as italics/oblique and bold by default respectively, but that is just convention. You might use colour instead; a speech browser might use volume/pitch.
    – e100
    Feb 20, 2012 at 16:45
  • I'll second the <em>/<strong> convention. I typically use <strong> for keywords and <em> for literary emphasis or for grammatic purposes (though <span class="title"> or, ironically, <i> may be more appropriate there semantically). There's really no need for <em level=...>. Semantically, it means nothing. Unlike headings, there are no absolute grades of emphasis. Feb 20, 2012 at 17:17

I see two components to this question:

  1. When to use italics in general
  2. When to use italics on the web

No.1 falls under general typography for which many resources exist, too many to list here and I'm assuming you already understand. Italics in web context specifically, I'd say, fundamentally there is no major difference in how you use it. It's a form of emphasis, more subtle than bold, follow the same principles of good typography. That being said, a few notable differences to keep in mind:

  • Alternatives: when you need subtle emphasis, there are alternatives on the web which don't exist in print (not easily or are technically too difficult to be economically viable) such as a subtle colour change not far off the base colour.
  • Uncommon: Italics on the web are rare (compared to print). Due to that, they have a bit of a nostalgic feel to them, that's something to both keep in mind as well as use when situation calls for it.
  • Technical: due to the nature of font rendering, italics tend to have lower legibility for display text (as opposed to print), be conservative with them as you approach smaller point sizes. Anti-aliasing methods also play a role, a non-AA font rendering method (eg Game UI) will most likely have the lowest legibility for italics.

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