Emphasis Options Overview

Name Element Purpose When to Use Examples
Emphasis <em> Vocal emphasis; italic appearance Use <em> when a certain word needs to be stressed for the text to make sense
  • I never said she stole the money.
  • Now do you believe me?
Italic <i> Semantic/idiomatic emphasis; italic appearance Use <i> when text needs to stand out – when the purpose of the emphasis is semantic (similar to <b>)
  • Technical terms: The calathea musaica has a mosaic-like pattern on the leaf.
  • Ships/vessels: The Titanic sank in 1912.
  • Words in another language: This was his pièce de resistance.
  • Dream sequences, thoughts, memories.
Strong <strong> Vocal emphasis; bold appearance Use <strong> to indicate importance/urgency Imperative statements, warnings: The sign on the door said Do not enter.
Bold <b> Semantic/idiomatic emphasis; bold appearance Use <b> when text needs to stand out – when the purpose of the emphasis is semantic (similar to <i>) Keywords: The Roman centurions carried a gladius and a pugio.
Cite <cite> Semantic/idiomatic emphasis; italic appearance This is similar to <i>, but used in the specific context of book/magazine/movie titles in the text as well as in citations, like in bibliographies and footnotes.
  • Books/magazines/newspapers/movies: It was in the New York Times.
  • Direct citations, like:
    “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus…
    Book 1, Line 1, of Richmond Lattimore’s Iliad of Homer.
  • Bibliography/note citations, like:
    “Doe, J. (1997). This is the title of the article. Journal of Articles, (84)3, 100-120.”
Visual bold / Visual italic (not an official name – just the concept) font-style: italic
font-weight: bold
No semantic or vocal emphasis; affects appearance alone Use CSS properties for bolding and italicization when it is simply visual. CSS does not have any semantic meaning, so assistive technologies won’t pick up on it
  • Headings:
    • Chapter One
    • Impact of the First Mithridatic War
  • Chapter/sentence beginnings:
    • Once upon a time, there was a …
    • Markers:Figure 1. A graph…

For more information, visit the DAISY Knowledge Base: Bolding & Italics.