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Be Bold! • Use Bold Type in Desktop Publishing

Use bold effectively when composing type

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Typefaces with bold and heavy weights

Typefaces with bold and heavy weights

A typeface with thicker strokes than regular, roman text is called bold type. It is heavier, darker than regular type. Many type families include bold versions of the basic typeface. They may also have Heavy or Ultra Bold weights and Bold Italic.
One way to grab attention in a sea of words is to set some text in bold type.

Designing with Bold Type

  • Use for emphasis, to highlight important points.

  • Use restraint. Don't overdo it.

    Try to avoid setting entire paragraphs in bold type (like this) because it is generally harder to read. The reason bold type creates emphasis is that it slows down the reader and forces their eye to really take in the words more carefully. But if you slow them down too much they may just skip over what you have to say.

  • Create contrast for headlines and subheadings.
    There are many ways to create contrast between body copy and headlines. Use font size (larger) with bold type (darker) to set apart headlines from the rest of the text.

    Break Up 'Gray' Areas
    Bold headlines and subheadings also break up large blocks of text. This subheading is the same size as the body copy but the bold type makes it stand out, look larger. It keeps the blocks of text from all running together. Make it bigger and you've got more contrast.

  • Highlight titles or proper names within a block of copy.
    People like to see their name in print. In a club newsletter or similar publication this is one way to put the spotlight on members who aren't part of a feature article. Not everyone agrees though.

    "Avoid the temptation to use boldface text to emphasize words within a passage of text. Bold text is like a magnet to our eyes, and if used incorrectly, ruins the continuity of your text." — The Rules of Typography at the Fontsite.

    The following is an actual excerpt from a magazine I used to publish. I've changed the names and edited slightly but this is more or less the way it appeared in the "gossip" column of the magazine.

    In August, Jana Louise (CA) wrote, "we have tried in the past for a Northern California INK but can't seem to get it going." OK all you Northern California INKers! We hereby challenge you to plan one meeting this fall. Just one meeting. All it takes is two folks (just ask Ann Webber and Patti Duckworth of OK INK) to make an INK chapter. Those of you active in the INK echo or LaserPub have no doubt met Dallas-based Lindy Price. She is anxiously awaiting her first TINK meeting…

  • Set key terms or phrases in bold in textbooks or manuals.
    Setting key terms in bold within textbooks serves as an aid to students scanning the book — helping them quickly find important information.

  • Set type in the bold (or heavy) version of a typeface rather than using the bold style function of your software. If the bold version doesn't appear in your font list after it is installed (common in Windows), then go ahead and use the bold style option (the software should find and use the bold version).

Next > Why it is best to use true bold fonts

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