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Bold, italics and underlining


We use bold – sparingly – to highlight the most important part of a message:

The deadline for submissions is noon on 14 July.

Don't overdo it, as it can distract the reader and make content less readable. And don't make punctuation bold, unless the whole sentence is.

In print content, make all web addresses, email addresses, hashtags and other social media identifiers bold, to clearly show the reader where to go or what action to take:



We use italics to emphasise words within a sentence where they make the meaning clearer and help to make the point. Keeping this kind of emphasis to a minimum stops it losing its impact and supports accessibility.

Studying at the University of Nottingham was one of the best experiences of my life.

We also italicise certain titles.

The titles of books, journals, plays, films and musical works:

My favourite Thomas Hardy book is Far from the Madding Crowd.

Can Die Hard really be classed as a Christmas film?

If the title includes “The” or “A” at the start, italicise that as well:

The Wizard of Oz used colour photography in a very innovative way.

But use quotation marks rather than italics if you're talking about an individual song, an article within a larger publication or a short story:

"Here comes the sun" is my favourite song on the Beatles' Abbey Road album.

If you have to make an italicised title plural or past tense, don't italicise the "s", "ed" or any resulting punctuation:

The drama society is putting on three Macbeths this year.

This can look strange, so it might be easier to reword the sentence to avoid this quandary.

Use italics for lesser-known foreign words and phrases, including species and general names in Latin:

My bête noire is when people chew gum with their mouth open.

The humble black rat (Rattus rattus) is very common.

But if it's a commonly used foreign word or phrase, there's no need to italicise:

He had an espresso and she went for a cappuccino.

It was a cliché, but it worked.


Underlining makes people think of hyperlinks and can look messy, so it's best to draw a line under it right now and just not use it.