JS Tip 145: From Writing Workshops: Never Underline

Never underline.

That’s it. That’s our tip for this week. Thank you.  

If you have questions, comments, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. We need more explanation.

First Problem

Underlining is a relic, a remnant, a leftover, of typing on a typewriter. 

With typing, if we wanted to emphasize something, we underlined it. We backspaced so many spaces and hit the shift and the “eight” key. Plock. Plock. Plock. Plock. Plock. Underlined. Emphasized.

The underlined text indicated to the typesetter (if it got that far) that we wanted italics. Yup. Italics.

If Arthur Conan Doyle typed his Sherlock Holmes stories—

“Ha! The game’s afoot, Watson!”

The typesetter would render the text—

         “Ha! The game’s afoot, Watson!”

And, since you have access to italics on your word processing program, use the italics. Don’t underline.     

Second Problem

Underlining obscures the descenders on the letters. Descenders are the “tails” that hang below the letter-line on the “g,” “j,” “p,” “q,” and “y.”

Don’t forget your juggling equipment.

Bam. Right through the tails. It takes your reader a second longer to recognize the word.

The Solution

If you want to emphasize an idea, use italics:

         Don’t forget your juggling equipment.  

That’s the way printers do it. You can too. Never underline.

Next week: The real reason you should avoid ALL CAPS.