#72 Boldface & Italic
Click to view full-size or download hi-rez image for gallery-quality printing and framing.
This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.
#72 Boldface & Italic is about the two most common text variations in publishing—both used too much & too wrong.
Some writers—let’s call them overemphasizers—just can’t get enough boldface & italic. If they feel strongly about the point they’re making, they won’t hesitate to run the whole paragraph in bold type. Don’t be one of these people. This habit wears down your readers’ retinas & their patience. It also gives you nowhere to go when you need to emphasize a word.
That’s no problem for overemphasizers, though, who resort to underlining bold text or using bold italic. These are both bad ideas.
(The two paragraphs above, set in boldface & italic, are from Butterick’s Practical Typography. It is so well-stated—quite humorously & sadly true—about overemphasizers, many of whom I’ve encountered as overzealous clients, I couldn’t help but just reprint it nearly verbatim. More from Butterick’s below.)
Boldface & italic treatments are somewhat interchangeable, but they really do each have their own flavor of emphasis or character. Other variations for type are caps & small caps, but that’ll be the theme for another AmperArt installment.
Text that is neither bold nor italic is called roman.
Roman? The Tower of Pisa seems to be italicized, doesn’t it? Oh—it’s in Pisa, not Rome.
Italic Tower of Pisa
Where to use boldface & italic
Boldface is great for subheads or anywhere you need to attract the eye.
Italics should be used for book titles, long poems, plays, television shows and films, artworks & song titles; titles of newspapers, journals, magazines & radio series; names of ships & airplanes; specific editions of sacred texts; legal cases.
Foreign words used in English are sometimes italicized, sometimes not, depending on how common they are. For instance, you would italicize your zuppa Toscana & sfogliatelle, but not your lasagna & cannoli.
But that’s not all.
This book will save you hundreds of dollars in editing fees—& thousands if you do your own editing & you want to make sure everything is spot-on perfect before ink hits paper without any typos in the printed publications.
According to & paraphrased from Butterick’s Practical Typography (a free online guide):
Boldface or italic—always think of them as mutually exclusive. That is the first rule. (So much for the title of this AmperArt piece, Boldface & Italic.)
The second rule is to use boldface & italic as little as possible. They are tools for emphasis. But if everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized. Also, because boldface & italic styles are designed to contrast with regular roman text, they’re somewhat harder to read. Like ALL CAPS, boldface & italic are fine for short stretches of text, but not for long ones.
Some fonts have both a bold style and a semibold style. And some have styles that are heavier than bold, like black or ultra. These weights are usually intended for large sizes (for instance, headlines) and don’t work well at the size range of most body text.
Suggesting boldface & italic the old-fashioned way
In the days of typewriters, emphasis was achieved in several ways, the most common underlining (you had to first type the words, then backspace and add the underline). This represented boldface & italic for emphasis, but always italic for indicating a book or film title. ALL CAPS was used to draw attention, or to indicate headings and subheads. And boldface achieved by actually backspacing the carriage and typing the text over two or three times until it was bold. In “modern” typewriters there were interchangeable balls and wheels that contained different fonts, another means of achieving boldface & italic.
And there was the two-color ribbon, red & black. That emphasized more than boldface & italic combined!