Last modified on 9 February 2014, at 15:21

HyperText Markup Language/Text Formatting

The Text Formatting elements give logical structure to phrases in your HTML document. This structure is normally presented to the user by changing the appearance of the text.

We have seen in the Introduction to this book how we can emphasize text by using <em></em> tags. Graphical browsers normally present emphasized text in italics. Some Screen readers, utilities which read the page to the user, may speak emphasized words with a different inflection.

A common mistake is to confuse the appearance of the element in your preferred browser for the meaning of the element. This is one reason why you should use more than one browser to test your pages. Ideally you would use a graphical browser, a text-only browser and a screen reader.

You can change the default presentation for any element using Cascading Style Sheets. For example if you wanted all emphasized text to appear in red normal text you would use the following CSS rule:

 em { font-style:normal; color:red; }

In this section, we will explore a few basic ways in which you can markup the logical structure of your document.


HTML has elements for two degrees of emphasis:

  • The em element for emphasized text, usually rendered in italics.
  • The strong element for strongly emphasized text, usually rendered in bold.

An example of emphasized text:

It is essential not only to guess but actually <em>observe</em> the results.

An example rendering:

It is essential not only to guess but actually observe the results.

An example of strongly emphasized text:

Let us now focus on <strong>structural markup</strong>.

An example rendering:

Let us now focus on structural markup.

Preformatted textEdit

Preformatted text is rendered using fixed-width font, and without condensing multiple spaces into one, which results in preserved spacing. Newlines are rendered as newlines, unlike outside preformatted text. HTML markup in the preformatted text is still interpreted by browsers though, meaning that "<em>a</em>" will still be rendered as "a".

To create preformatted text, start it with <pre> and end it with </pre>.

An example:

| No. | Person          |
| 1.  | Bill Newton     |
| 2.  | Magaret Clapton |

The resulting rendering:

| No. | Person          |
| 1.  | Bill Newton     |
| 2.  | Magaret Clapton |

Omitting the preformatting tags will cause the same text to appear all in one line:

,-----------------------, | No. | Person | |-----------------------| | 1. | Bill Newton | | 2. | Magaret Clapton | '-----------------------'

Special CharactersEdit


To do:
Cleanup special character table, left column needs "sorting".

See also meta:Help:Special characters.

To insert non-standard characters or characters that hold special meaning in HTML, a HTML character reference is required. For example, to input the ampersand, "&", "&amp;" needs to be typed. Characters can also be inserted by their Ascii or Unicode number code.

Name Code Number Code Glyph Description
&quot; &#34; " double quotation mark
&amp; &#38; & ampersand
&frasl; &#47; / slash
&lt; &#60; < less-than sign
&gt; &#62; > greater-than sign
&ndash; &#150; en dash
&mdash; &#151; em dash
&nbsp; &#160;   nonbreaking space (invisible)
&iexcl; &#161; ¡ inverted exclamation
&cent; &#162; ¢ cent sign
&pound; &#163; £ pound sterling
&curren; &#164; ¤ general currency sign
&yen; &#165; ¥ yen sign
&brvbar; or &brkbar; &#166; ¦ broken vertical bar
&sect; &#167; § section sign
&uml; or &die; &#168; ¨ umlaut
&copy; &#169; © copyright
&ordf; &#170; ª feminine ordinal
&laquo; &#171; « left angle quote
&not; &#172; ¬ not sign
&shy; &#173; ­ soft hyphen
&reg; &#174; ® registered trademark
&macr; or &hibar; &#175; ¯ macron accent
&deg; &#176; ° degree sign
&plusmn; &#177; ± plus or minus
&sup2; &#178; ² superscript two
&sup3; &#179; ³ superscript three
&acute; &#180; ´ acute accent
&micro; &#181; µ micro sign
&para; &#182; paragraph sign
&middot; &#183; · middle dot
&cedil; &#184; ¸ cedilla
&sup1; &#185; ¹ superscript one
&ordm; &#186; º masculine ordinal
&raquo; &#187; » right angle quote
&frac14; &#188; ¼ one-fourth
&frac12; &#189; ½ one-half
&frac34; &#190; ¾ three-fourths
&iquest; &#191; ¿ inverted question mark
&lsquo; left single quote
&rsquo; right single quote
&sbquo; single low-9 quote
&ldquo; left double quote
&rdquo; right double quote
&bdquo; double low-9 quote
&dagger; dagger
&Dagger; double dagger
&permil; per mill sign
&lsaquo; single left-pointing angle quote
&rsaquo; single right-pointing angle quote
&spades; black spade suit
&clubs; black club suit
&hearts; black heart suit
&diams; black diamond suit
&oline; overline, = spacing overscore
&larr; leftward arrow
&uarr; upward arrow
&rarr; rightward arrow
&darr; downward arrow
&trade; trademark sign
&times; &#215; × multiplication sign
&divide; &#247; ÷ division sign
Name Code Number Code Glyph Description
&Agrave; &#192; À uppercase A, grave accent
&Aacute; &#193; Á uppercase A, acute accent
&Acirc; &#194; Â uppercase A, circumflex accent
&Atilde; &#195; Ã uppercase A, tilde
&Auml; &#196; Ä uppercase A, umlaut
&Aring; &#197; Å uppercase A, ring
&AElig; &#198; Æ uppercase AE
&Ccedil; &#199; Ç uppercase C, cedilla
&Egrave; &#200; È uppercase E, grave accent
&Eacute; &#201; É uppercase E, acute accent
&Ecirc; &#202; Ê uppercase E, circumflex accent
&Euml; &#203; Ë uppercase E, umlaut
&Igrave; &#204; Ì uppercase I, grave accent
&Iacute; &#205; Í uppercase I, acute accent
&Icirc; &#206; Î uppercase I, circumflex accent
&Iuml; &#207; Ï uppercase I, umlaut
&ETH; &#208; Ð uppercase Eth, Icelandic
&Ntilde; &#209; Ñ uppercase N, tilde
&Ograve; &#210; Ò uppercase O, grave accent
&Oacute; &#211; Ó uppercase O, acute accent
&Ocirc; &#212; Ô uppercase O, circumflex accent
&Otilde; &#213; Õ uppercase O, tilde
&Ouml; &#214; Ö uppercase O, umlaut
&Oslash; &#216; Ø uppercase O, slash
&Ugrave; &#217; Ù uppercase U, grave accent
&Uacute; &#218; Ú uppercase U, acute accent
&Ucirc; &#219; Û uppercase U, circumflex accent
&Uuml; &#220; Ü uppercase U, umlaut
&Yacute; &#221; Ý uppercase Y, acute accent
&THORN; &#222; Þ uppercase THORN, Icelandic
&szlig; &#223; ß lowercase sharps, German
&agrave; &#224; à lowercase a, grave accent
&aacute; &#225; á lowercase a, acute accent
&acirc; &#226; â lowercase a, circumflex accent
&atilde; &#227; ã lowercase a, tilde
&auml; &#228; ä lowercase a, umlaut
&aring; &#229; å lowercase a, ring
&aelig; &#230; æ lowercase ae
&ccedil; &#231; ç lowercase c, cedilla
&egrave; &#232; è lowercase e, grave accent
&eacute; &#233; é lowercase e, acute accent
&ecirc; &#234; ê lowercase e, circumflex accent
&euml; &#235; ë lowercase e, umlaut
&igrave; &#236; ì lowercase i, grave accent
&iacute; &#237; í lowercase i, acute accent
&icirc; &#238; î lowercase i, circumflex accent
&iuml; &#239; ï lowercase i, umlaut
&eth; &#240; ð lowercase eth, Icelandic
&ntilde; &#241; ñ lowercase n, tilde
&ograve; &#242; ò lowercase o, grave accent
&oacute; &#243; ó lowercase o, acute accent
&ocirc; &#244; ô lowercase o, circumflex accent
&otilde; &#245; õ lowercase o, tilde
&ouml; &#246; ö lowercase o, umlaut
&oslash; &#248; ø lowercase o, slash
&ugrave; &#249; ù lowercase u, grave accent
&uacute; &#250; ú lowercase u, acute accent
&ucirc; &#251; û lowercase u, circumflex accent
&uuml; &#252; ü lowercase u, umlaut
&yacute; &#253; ý lowercase y, acute accent
&thorn; &#254; þ lowercase thorn, Icelandic
&yuml; &#255; ÿ lowercase y, umlaut


Another useful element is abbr. This can be used to provide a definition for an abbreviation, e.g.

 <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr>
Will be displayed as: HTML
When you will hover over HTML, you see HyperText Markup Language

Graphical browsers normally show abbreviations with a dotted underline. The title appears as a tooltip. Screen readers may read the title at the user's request.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer version 6 and lower do not support abbr. It does however support the related element acronym which has resulted in this element commonly being used for all abbreviations not just acronyms.

An acronym is a special abbreviation in which letters from several words are pronounced to form a new word (e.g. radar - RAdio Detection And Ranging). The letters in HTML are pronounced separately, technically making it a different sort of abbreviation known as an initialism.

Discouraged FormattingEdit

HTML supports various formatting elements whose use is discouraged in favor of the use of cascading style sheets (CSS). Let us have a short overview of the discouraged formatting, so that you know what it is when you see it in some web page, and know how to replace it with CSS formatting. Some of the discouraged elements are merely discouraged, others are deprecated in addition. HTML formatting is generally used with older browsers that do not support CSS.

Element Effect Example CSS Alternative Note
b boldface bold font-weight: bold;
i italics italics font-style: italics;
u underlined underlined text-decoration: underline deprecated
tt typewriter face typewriter face font-family: monospace
s strikethrough strikethrough text-decoration: line-through deprecated
strikethrough strikethrough <strikethrough>strikethrough</strikethrough> text-decoration: line-through deprecated
big big font big font-size: larger
small small font small font-size: smaller
font font size size=1 font-size:(value) deprecated
center center a block <div align="center"> deprecated

Cascading Style SheetsEdit

The use of style elements such as <b> for bold or <i> for italic is straight-forward but unfortunately it couples the presentation layer with the content layer. By using Cascading Style Sheets, the HTML author can decouple these two distinctly different parts so that a properly marked-up document may be rendered in various ways while the document itself remains unchanged. Thus, for example, if the publisher would like to change cited references in a document to appear as bold text as they were previously italic, they simply need to update the style sheet and not go through each document changing <b> to <i> and vice-versa. Cascading Style Sheets also allow the reader to make these choices, overriding those of the publisher.

Continuing with the above example, let's say that the publisher has correctly marked up all their documents by surround references to cited material (such as the name of a book) in the documents with the <cite> tag:

<cite>The Great Gatsby</cite>

Then to make all cited references bold, one would put something like the following in the style sheet:

 cite { font-weight: bold; }

Later someone tells you that references really need to be italic. Before CSS, you would have to hunt through all your documents, changing the <b> and </b> to <i> and </i> (but being careful *not* to change words that are in bold that are not cited references).

But with CSS, it's as simple as changing one line in the style sheet to

 cite { font-style: italic; }