Yesterday I visited two websites where underlining had gone wrong. At each site, I clicked underlined (underscored) words and phrases, expecting to be taken to more information. But there was no click. I just sat there, staring at an unchanging screen.
In the old days, we used underlining for emphasis. Now underlining indicates a hyperlink. When underlining appears online–even in email or word-processed documents–people expect it to indicate a link.
If underlining is no longer a good tool for emphasis, what is? Try a bold font. I have used bolding in this post to emphasize the beginning of each paragraph. The bolding should help you skim the message and quickly get the main point in each paragraph.
By contrast, italicized words do not draw the reader’s attention. Italics give a word or phrase emphasis in a sentence, as in the previous sentence and the word not. But italics do not make words stand out in a visual scan. For that purpose, use a bold font.
Caution: Avoid reader dizziness. I get dizzy when bolding is used sporadically, as in this paragraph. As a reader, I would rather skim bold headings and bold paragraph openings than have to sift through bold type sprinkled throughout a document.
Let’s not confuse readers with "links" that go nowhere. At one of the sites I visited yesterday, every heading was underlined, which naturally led me to believe the headings were links. I went so far as to examine my mouse and Ctrl key, thinking they had frozen on me. Don’t confuse readers: For headings, use a bold font or larger font–not underlining.
Do you have suggestions about how to emphasize information online? Please share them.
Syntax Training (linked, not emphasized)