Why is it that italic and bold formatting is available while underline is not?

I guess it is voluntary, I'm just wondering why that would be the case.

  • 16
    I've never missed the ability to underline stuff in two years. – Pekka Dec 23 '11 at 21:13
  • 29
    Underlining has (still) connotations of a clickable hyperlink. – JJJ Dec 23 '11 at 21:20
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    See meta.stackexchange.com/a/24142 for previous discussion on this – waiwai933 Dec 23 '11 at 22:39
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    In the three years that I have been on Stack Overflow, I never thought about using an underline. I have thought about using strikeout though. – Brad Gilbert Dec 24 '11 at 6:50
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    @BradGilbert try <strike> – sq33G Dec 26 '11 at 9:52
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    @sq33G I didn't say I couldn't use strikeout. – Brad Gilbert Dec 26 '11 at 16:19
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    For those who might wonder about tag removal: this is a support question asking "Why", so a status tag does not really fit. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask May 12 '14 at 9:14
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    Here's a post on User Experience about whether there is ever a need for underlining text when it's not a link - ux.stackexchange.com/questions/18086/… – JonW May 12 '14 at 9:24
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    "I can't think of a legitimate use for this, therefore no one else has a legitimate use for it, either." — SE logic – endolith Jul 11 '18 at 19:51
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    @sq33G You could also use <s>...</s> to strike out the ... text :P – Mr Pie Oct 20 '18 at 12:55

Underlining as a typographic means of emphasis is a relic of typewriters and handwriting. I'm not saying these two are dead (at least not both of them), but underlining is far inferior to bolding (for emphasizing and having it stand out from the rest of the text) and italicizing (for emphasizing but leaving the text's gray value intact, thus not standing out).

Using underlining for emphasis is only for when you have no other way. And we certainly do.

In addition, Juhana is right; on the web, underlining means "clickable".

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  • 10
    Because bolding and putting everything in italics makes everything look better. – casperOne Dec 24 '11 at 16:38
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    On a side note: our very own UX.SE has an interesting question on allowing underline. – Jeroen Oct 22 '12 at 11:52
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    Bold is better than u̲n̲d̲e̲r̲l̲i̲n̲e̲. – John Militer Jul 4 '17 at 23:14
  • For me hyperlinks on a web were always distinguishable by color difference and not by underlining. On the other hand, I was never used to using bold for emphasis, because for me its purpose is for headers and it attracts too much attention compared to u̲n̲d̲e̲r̲l̲i̲n̲i̲n̲g̲. U̲n̲d̲e̲r̲l̲i̲n̲i̲n̲g̲ is something in between bold and italic. – EvgenKo423 Jul 28 '19 at 9:02
  • Underlines damage legibility of letters with descenders (çgjpqy). @casperOne, are you one of those vandals who underline whole paragraphs of a book? – Anton Sherwood Nov 25 '19 at 19:03
  • @EvgenKo423, to my eye, your underlines here stand out much more than the alternatives. – Anton Sherwood Nov 25 '19 at 19:03
  • I use italics for emphasis, and bold for important things. Underlines have no added semantic value in the context of Markdown on Stack Exchange. – user289905 Apr 12 at 20:46

You can u̲n̲d̲e̲r̲l̲i̲n̲e̲ t̲e̲x̲t̲ by using the unicode combining character U+0332:


Use this bookmarklet to underline the selected text in the active input control:

javascript:(function(){var el=document.activeElement,$el=$(el),start=el.selectionStart,end=el.selectionEnd,val=$el.val(),text=val.substring(start,end).replace(/\S/g,"$&\u0332");$el.val(val.substring(0,start)+text+val.substring(end));el.selectionStart=start;el.selectionEnd=start+text.length})();void 0;
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  • 7
    Looks like this on Chrome 16, Ubuntu 11.10. Yuck! – hammar Feb 3 '12 at 2:35
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    Well, ya.. Not great, but perhaps better than nothing. On WP7 the line is solid at least, but offset by half a character to the right. I'd post a screenshot, but WP7 still lacks that capability. – gilly3 Feb 3 '12 at 4:50
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    +1 for being very evil with your use of what is available. – Donal Fellows Feb 3 '12 at 16:03
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    For spacing, use &nbsp; instead of normal spaces. Trying to combine normal spaces with &#x332; will give you odd and ugly results. – Pacerier Nov 6 '15 at 6:33
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    Sometimes nothing is better than something. – SevenSidedDie Jun 9 '16 at 18:33

On the web, an underline denotes a clickable link.

We do not and should not encourage contributors to create confusion by underlining regular text.

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  • 6
    Very few of the links on SO are underlined. I'm not sure this would create legitimate confusion. – Charles Dec 24 '11 at 3:25
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    @Charles: That's a design choice - one that many might disagree with but that's beside the point. The underline indicates a hyperlink, period; it doesn't matter whether or not the real hyperlinks are underlined, underlined text on the site is going to signal to readers that there is a hyperlink when there actually isn't. – Aarobot Dec 24 '11 at 18:24

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