Italics in HTML: How To

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Using italics in HTML can be an effective way to emphasize text, differentiate quotes, or showcase titles. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the various ways to create italic text in HTML, the appropriate use cases, and best practices for accessibility.

Creating Italic Text with HTML Tags

There are two primary HTML tags used to render italic text on a webpage: the <i> tag and the <em> tag.

<i> Tag

The <i> tag is used to display text in italics without conveying any additional meaning or emphasis. It is generally utilized for text that is set apart from the main content, such as foreign words or phrases, technical terms, or variable names in a mathematical expression:

<i>C'est la vie!</i> - This French phrase is displayed in italics.
<i>E = mc<sup>2</sup></i> - The variable names in this equation are in italics.

<em> Tag

The <em> tag, which stands for “emphasis,” is used to emphasize text and typically renders it in italics. The <em> tag is more semantically meaningful than the <i> tag, as it indicates that the text inside the tag should be stressed or highlighted:

I <em>really</em> need to finish this project. - The word "really" is emphasized.

When it comes to accessibility, using the <em> tag is preferred over the <i> tag, as it provides better support for screen readers and assistive technologies.

Styling Text with CSS

While using the <i> and <em> tags is the most straightforward method for creating italic text, you can also use CSS to achieve the same result. The advantage of using CSS is that it allows you to control the styling of multiple elements in a more organized and efficient manner.

To create italic text using CSS, you can apply the font-style property with the value italic to the target element:

.italic-text {
  font-style: italic;

Then, simply add the corresponding class to the HTML element:

<span class="italic-text">This text will be italicized.</span>

Best Practices and Accessibility

When using italics in your HTML documents, it’s essential to follow best practices and consider accessibility. Here are some recommendations:

  • Use the <em> tag for emphasizing text, as it is more meaningful and better supported by assistive technologies.
  • Avoid using the <i> tag for emphasis; reserve it for situations where the text should be set apart from the main content, such as foreign phrases or technical terms.
  • Consider using CSS for styling text, as it provides greater flexibility and control over your webpage’s appearance.
  • Ensure that the use of italics does not hinder readability. Keep in mind that italicized text can be harder to read for some users, particularly those with dyslexia or other visual impairments.
  • Use italics sparingly and purposefully. Overusing italics can diminish their impact and make the content appear cluttered.
  • When using italics for links, ensure that they are distinguishable from other italicized text on the page by using additional visual cues, such as underlining or a different color.


Italics can be a powerful tool for emphasizing text and adding stylistic flair to your HTML documents. By understanding the different ways to create italic text, you can make informed decisions about when to use <i> and <em> tags or apply CSS styles. Always keep accessibility and best practices in mind to ensure that your content is both visually appealing and easy to read for all users.

Further Reading

For more information about HTML, CSS, and best practices, consider exploring the following resources:

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