That Dark Type is Called “Boldface”

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In comparing style manuals, I came across these instructions:

Never underline text. If you need to call attention to certain words, use body copy that is bolded or italic. –St Anselm style guide


We talk about italic type, serif type, and sanserif type. What’s wrong with “boldface?”

It’s not as if “bolded” saves any syllables. Use body copy that is boldface or italic.

Apparently “bolded” is creeping into use:

This is a discussion on Compressing bolded type within the Adobe Acrobat forums in Adobe Tools category;

Notice the bolded type sandwiched between lighter weight typefaces.

a lighter blue that will only be legible if you combine it with a larger font size or at least – as in this example – a bolded type

On the other hand, not everyone has opted for that ugly johnny-come-lately:

A single syllable or letter in boldface type in the stems marks the position of the accent throughout this grammar.

Use the word “Abstract” as the title, in 12-point Times, boldface type, centered relative to the column,

Authors’ names in boldface type, subjects or titles in lightface type.

“Bolded” indeed.

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11 thoughts on “That Dark Type is Called “Boldface””

  1. This seems to be the difference between pedestrians learning MS Word, and print designers.

    MS Word has a style effect called bold. With an icon. Hit the hot key, and you apply “bold” style. To describe? Verb that noun! Bold the word. Very, very few people sitting at a keyboard care about whether they are changing fonts. They want “bold.” Most don’t care about boldface, blackface, extra black, condensed, oblique, etc. Most have never stumbled into Fonts.com or MyFonts.com, or one of the foundries or font houses. They never scanned through the Adobe font catalog. (I bought a couple of Caslon faces for the Mac some 20 years ago.)

    Many people that learned about fonts from the selection menu in MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint don’t know anything more about typefaces than they do about browsers (“Uh, That is what I search the internet with. Google.”)

    I don’t think this verbed noun is a useful defense against the barbarians at the gate. Companies full of people that learned bolding and italicizing as things that MS Word does – I imagine few could tell you they were applying a style or format effect, in MS Word parlance – will be using jargon from the MS Word interface and training classes.

    I do *not* think “bolding” comes from sloppy usage in the print design world. It bleeds over from casual users repeating the name of the control and applying it to the affect it has.


  2. What’s wrong with simply “…body copy that is bold or italic”?

    As a writer and graphic designer for 15+ years, I cannot imagine myself referring to the style in question as anything other than “bold”. And yes, that’s largely due to how it is presented in word processing and other MS Office apps. But it’s also used in the names of the fonts themselves (e.g., Helvetica Bold).

  3. While I love the word embolden, I’d have to agree that the typeface is being changed. For example: “If you need to call attention to certain words, use boldface or italic body copy.” I will also settle for “bold”: “If you need to call attention to certain words, use bold or italic body copy.”

  4. In the example quoted, if they’re going to use “bolded” shouldn’t they then use “italicized”?

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