Maybe this will be considered a bit of a nitpicking argument, but I constantly find myself asking: In a paragraph where the last word is bold or italicised, should I make the period at the end bold or italicised too.

For example, which of the following is preferrable?

Today I met a lot of interesting people.
Today I met a lot of interesting people.

What would design best practices recommend? Of course at small sizes it’s hard to find a difference, but as size increases it catches the eye more and more and then I’m not sure anymore which one makes for the most appropriate choice.

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    Just my opinion, I only style an exclamation point or colon/semi-colon, other punctuation I do not style. Don't know if it's right or "best"... just how I always do it. This may be a question for English.StackExchange.com. – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 18:37
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    Thanks for your input. I myself thought it could be more of a question for a linguistic context, but english.stackexchange.com is just for English language isn't it? Also this applies to design a lot too, so I thought it was better to ask it here... – jj_ Feb 19 '15 at 18:46
  • Yeah, not saying it doesn't belong here. Just that it may also fit there :) Oh and I also style question marks. It's basically full stops, dashes, and commas I do not style. – Scott Feb 19 '15 at 18:47
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    It's pretty much the same decision as including them in a link or not. I tend to follow the way Scott does it above – Zach Saucier Feb 19 '15 at 18:52
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    I went and looked in the Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition for their input. They say both. "Don't include" is "primary" and "do include" is "alternate." They say pick one horse and ride it. – Yorik Feb 19 '15 at 21:43

The older convention was that the style of punctuation matched the immediately preceding context:


That's the Chicago Manual of Style (3rd edition, 1911), but the same convention can be seen in a French equivalent: Désiré Greffier, Les règles de la composition typographique (Paris: A. Muller, 1897), pp. 54-55.

And it's not only an older convention, as the Art. Lebedev Studio continues to advocate this same principle:


Having said that, as noted in other answers, Bringhurst seems to have imposed a different standard -- or at least he is widely cited with the instruction to ignore context and use 'upright' punctuation. His preference gets some interesting discussion, historical context, and push-back in the Typophile forum.

See also these Q&A's from elsewhere in the Stack Exchange network:

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    Thanks for the Chicago Manual of Style historical link. I don't think the example they gave for punctuation after italicized text was very apropos, since in that particular case the exclamation was clearly semantically part of the italicized text; a better example for an "always" rule would have used punctuation which was clearly not part of the italicized text. Still, it makes me happy to see typeset documents which predate the abandonment of proper sentence spacing. – supercat Feb 19 '15 at 23:44
  • BTW, I wish someone could have sent the author of "The PC/Mac is not a Typewriter" a copy of p. 101(printed)/117(online) of that document, specifically section 262, which indicates that punctuation marks which end a sentence should be followed by more space than those which don't, since "The PC/Mac is not a Linotype". What should have happened would have been for software to allow a configuration options for the relative width of double-spaces for non-justified text, and the relative base and expansion widths for justified text [in the latter, I would suggest that sentence-ending spaces... – supercat Feb 20 '15 at 17:16
  • ...should have a base width only slightly larger than other spaces, but they should get an amplified share of any extra spacing required for justification]. That would allow a document which was entered using double-spaces after periods to be rendered accurately according to traditional or modernized conventions. – supercat Feb 20 '15 at 17:18

I think it's great that you're being so detailed. The smallest of details are noticed by the reader, even if it's just subconsciously. I'm sure there are a lot of different opinions, and I'm sure that in the end it comes down to personal preference, but I would say you only include formatting on elements that are part of the nested statement.

This isn’t a cool statement.

The apostrophe is bold as it is part of the statement being emphasized.

Oh my gosh this is an amazing statement (not really).

The parentheses (and period) are not bold as they are not part of the nested statement.

You can see more of this in the wonderful book Practical Typography by Matthew Butterick. When going over parentheses, he says: “these marks should not adopt the formatting of the surrounded material.” Unless the formatting causes the text to awkwardly run into the marks in which case you should carry over the formatting to those marks. This depends on the font you use, so check first then edit as needed.

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While he is talking about parentheses, this rule / guideline extends to other punctuation marks.

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    It's great that this answer has a clear reference, but it doesn't yet answer the question: how would it apply to this sentance? Or this one. These don't contain nesting; so it's not yet clear how this rule applies... – user568458 Feb 19 '15 at 19:00
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    Sorry I should have been more clear. the formatting doesn't carry over to the punctuation unless the punctuation is part of the phrase being emphasized. So in all those cases, the punctuation would not be bold. – Nagoshi Feb 19 '15 at 20:43
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    Boldfacing something in brackets is a bad example anyway, since the styling and the punctuation contradict each other. – Wrzlprmft Feb 19 '15 at 21:25
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    @Nagoshi: Semantically, punctuation after an italicized word shouldn't be italicized unless it belongs to the italicized content, but sometimes, on systems that don't allow fine control over spacing, putting the punctuation upright looks really bad! – supercat Feb 19 '15 at 23:19

Semantically, the typeface of the punctuation should be determined by its degree of association with the preceding word. In the example given for the Chicago Manual of Style, the exclamation mark after Banzai! belongs to the word itself, rather than marking the end of the enclosing sentence, so it should clearly be italicized, but that doesn't mean that all punctuation marks following words should be treated thus semantically. If text were highlighted by changing the background color, an effect which is available in markdown but not very visible on this site, it would be strange to have the punctuation of a sentence highlighted when most of the sentence wasn't.

Typographically, however, things are more complicated. The difficulty is that even when semantics would suggest that a punctuation mark shouldn't be italicized, attempting to render it upright can sometimes look ugly! Semantically, putting the punctuation mark in italic when the sentence isn't is semantically nasty! Upgright punctuation is semantically more correct, and if spaced properly, should be visually fine as well. Unfortunately, getting the spacing right is often difficult.

It should be noted, btw, that the Chicago Manual of Style is directed at people writing for newspapers and other hastily-typeset publications. Many of the practices advocated therein are intended not to yield the best results, but rather to yield consistent results which are not reliant upon the judgment of people setting text. If the typeface of a mark following an italicized word is varied according to semantics, then it's possible for a typesetter who misinterprets the sentence to get it wrong. If the typestyle is determined by rule, then it says nothing semantically and thus can't be semantically wrong.

I would suggest that when taking control of document typography, one should use very different rules from what the Chicago Manual of Style would advocate, but be prepared to hand-tweak a lot of things.

  • The only thing I disagree with is your interpretation of what gets yelled... Or is it a regiment of horticulturists? – usr2564301 Feb 20 '15 at 14:44
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    @Jongware: Typo corrected; I think the horticulturalists' yell would normally be transliterated bonsai! but I like your sense of humor anyway. I wish someone had some years ago responded to "The PC/Mac is not a Typewriter" with a counter-argument "The PC/Mac is not a Linotype", since many modern typographical conventions which trade off semantics for simplicity (my biggest pet peeve: sentence spacing) shouldn't be necessary if typographical intentions can be indicated by an author rather than having to be inferred by a typesetter. – supercat Feb 20 '15 at 16:51
  • > a punctuation mark shouldn't be capitalized —do you mean italicized? – Bob Feb 21 '15 at 11:31
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    @Bob: Thanks; corrected. BTW, I've only seen the text rendered on Firefox; I wonder any browsers render the exclamation mark after ugly in a way that isn't, well, ugly. – supercat Feb 21 '15 at 17:24

I am referencing a physical book The Elements of Typographic Style, version 3.2 by Robert Bringhurst:

5.1.2 Use analphabetic symbols and diacritcs that are in tune with the basic font.


5.3.2 Use upright (i.e., "roman") rather than sloped parentheses, brackets and braces, even if the context is italic.

That is the only guidance I could find in that text that is relevant, but does not explicitly address the full stop question. I would leave the styling as the base font, unless there were an italic word or phrase at the end of a sentence that ended in a question mark or exclamation point. Those I would style italic to match the words.

I think a bold word followed by an exclamation point has some other editorial issues to do with the writing itself.


Perhaps this point of view can help you:

What is the result of writing some word with an italic font (I prefer!) or an bold font? It is a kind of citing, something like "This part is important"!.

Now I think the rule is simple: is the dot (.) or question mark (?) or ! or ... part of the cited element or not? If it is part, use the italic or bold font, if not use the normal font.

Different fonts have different looksso it can be that your choosen combination looks ugly (that is clearly opinion based!), then change it. I---but you must not!---prefer not to highlight the closing dot etc.

  • This is what I do. To me, "Are we really in Bradford?" reads differently to "Are we really in Bradford?" - the former is really pushing for a direct answer, the latter is musing on the idea of being in Bradford. – user568458 Feb 20 '15 at 23:41

All the answers so far are so long, I thought I'd give my quick thought.

I always "unbold" before ending the sentence with a punctuation mark. Why wouldn't you? The punctuation mark should be in tone with the sentence, not with the preceding word.


The answer to which is preferable is informed by the context of the sentence or paragraph. The most important elements get the most creative freedom.

If "Today I met a lot of interesting people." is a headline, for example, I would argue the designer has a lot more latitude about following the rules. But, if it is buried in an annual report or if your intended audience is a group of English grad students, I would advocate to follow the rules exactly!

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