Georgia Tech Research Institute
 

When marking up my web pages, should I use <b> or <strong> to represent bolded text?

This depends on what effect you are trying to achieve. When a screen reader finds a <strong> tag, the computer voice becomes louder. So you should ask yourself: Am I bolding the text for a purely visual effect, or am I bolding the text because I am trying to convey very important information?

If you are telling your site visitor something important, use <strong> to help ensure that they don't miss it.

If the bolding is simply cosmetic text formatting, the best alternative is to set this formatting in the style sheet rather than using either <b> or <strong>. The more that you centralize your visual layout in a cascading style sheet (CSS), the easier it is to make changes in one location and have them instantly reflected throughout your website. In addition, the use of style sheets allows for graceful transformation of your pages across browsers and across devices (i.e., web telephones, PDAs, etc.).

Remember that if you are marking up headings and sub-headings in a page, you should use heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) instead of creating a visual effect with the <b> tag or style sheet formatting. Heading tags provide information to assistive technology (AT) devices and facilitate navigation of the site via a text-only browser or screen reader.

The same rules apply when choosing between <i> and <em> for italicizing text. Note that the <em> tag adds emphasis to text, which is rendered in nearly all browsers as italics. The <i> tag specifically renders in italics across all browsers.

Contrary to some recent rumors, although the W3C and other bodies strongly urge that all visual formatting be done in style sheets, neither <b> nor <i> is deprecated nor slated to be deprecated in the near future.

A good tutorial on Cascading Style Sheets can be found at http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp.