When using underlines for emphasis, should spaces be underlined?

I’m not asking when to underline. There are myriad references for that via a simple internet search. However, this one doesn’t seem to appear anywhere…

For print-based projects….

I’m curious if space characters should be included when underlining general text for emphasis?

In other words, which of the below would be the preferred usage for an underline?

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Or is this merely a more stylistic preference left to the typesetter/editor/designer?

I realize for web-based projects you want the underline to encompass an entire link, not each word. So, this really doesn’t apply to anything web-based. For digital projects, I would honestly never use an underline for emphasis where there is also not an associated link. Any failure to include a space would indicate separate links in digital delivery.


Given that underlining is rarely used in designed printed type, I don’t think any effective general convention exists on this, where by effective I mean that breaking the convention actually irritates any reader. There may be conventions to specific niches of literature though.

I see the following pros and cons of underlining spaces:

  • Pro: It is semantically consistent if you are emphasising all words as a group and not individual words that happen to be next to each other (if not, you can make the distinction).
  • Pro: Readability is increased by avoiding the visual clutter of ending and beginning underlines. Of course, visual clutter is already high when underlining, so you may as well embrace it.
  • Con: Readability is decreased as word gaps become less distinct. I would expect that longer underlined passages decrease this affect as they give the reader’s brain the opportunity to switch to “underlined reading mode”.

At the end of the day, you have to decide for the lesser evil dependent on the length, frequency, and semantic nature of your underlined passages and the typeface. I expect that underlining spaces is the lesser evil in most cases.

Source : Link , Question Author : Scott , Answer Author : Wrzlprmft

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