1. Design System
  2. Base
  3. Typography
  4. Inline semantic text

Inline semantic text

Use inline semantic text to define the meaning, structure, or style of a word, line, or any arbitrary piece of text.


The abbr element is used for any abbreviated text, whether it be acronym, initialism, or otherwise. Generally, it's less work and useful (enough) to mark up only the first occurrence of any particular abbreviation on a page, and ignore the rest. Any text in the title attribute will appear when the user's mouse hovers the abbreviation. Example abbreviations:

<p><abbr title="British Broadcasting Corporation">BBC</abbr>, <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr>, and <abbr title="Staffordshire">Staffs.</abbr></p>

Pre-formatted text

The pre element represents a block of pre-formatted text, in which structure is represented by typographic conventions rather than by elements. Such examples are an e-mail (with paragraphs indicated by blank lines, lists indicated by lines prefixed with a bullet), fragments of computer code (with structure indicated according to the conventions of that language) or displaying ASCII art. Here's an example showing the printable characters of ASCII:

<pre><samp>&! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . /
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ?
@ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ] ^ _
` a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o
p q r s t u v w x y z { | } ~</samp></pre>


The b element is used for text stylistically offset from normal prose without conveying extra importance, such as key words in a document abstract, product names in a review, or other spans of text whose typographic presentation is typically emboldened. Example:

<p>You enter a small room. Your <b>sword</b> glows brighter. A <b>rat</b> scurries past the corner wall.</p>


The cite element is used to represent the title of a work (e.g. a book, essay, poem, song, film, TV show, sculpture, painting, musical, exhibition, etc). This can be a work that is being quoted or referenced in detail (i.e. a citation), or it can just be a work that is mentioned in passing. Example:

<p><cite>Universal Declaration of Human Rights</cite>, United Nations, December 1948. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).</p>


The code element is used to represent fragments of computer code. Useful for technology-oriented sites, not so useful otherwise. Example:

<p>When you call the <code>activate()</code> method on the <code>robotSnowman</code> object, the eyes glow.</p>

Used in conjunction with the pre element:

<pre><code>function getJelly() {
echo $aDeliciousSnack;


The dfn element is used to highlight the first use of a term. The title attribute can be used to describe the term. Example:

<p>Bob's <dfn title="Dog">canine</dfn> mother and <dfn title="Horse">equine</dfn> father sat him down and carefully explained that he was an <dfn title="A mutation that combines two or more sets of chromosomes from different species">allopolyploid</dfn> organism.</p>

Stressed emphasis

The em element is used to denote text with stressed emphasis, i.e., something you'd pronounce differently. Where italicizing is required for stylistic differentiation, the i element may be preferable. Example:

<p>You simply <em>must</em> try the negitoro maki!</p>

Horizontal rule

The hr element represents a paragraph-level thematic break, e.g. a scene change in a story, or a transition to another topic within a section of a reference book. The following extract from Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton shows two paragraphs that precede a scene change and the paragraph that follows it:

<p>Dudley was ninety-two, in his second life, and fast approaching time for another rejuvenation. Despite his body having the physical age of a standard fifty-year-old, the prospect of a long degrading campaign within academia was one he regarded with dread. For a supposedly advanced civilization, the Intersolar Commonwearth could be appallingly backward at times, not to mention cruel.</p>
<p><i>Maybe it won't be that bad</i>, he told himself. The lie was comforting enough to get him through the rest of the night's shift.</p>
<p>The Carlton AllLander drove Dudley home just after dawn. Like the astronomer, the vehicle was old and worn, but perfectly capable of doing its job. It had a cheap diesel engine, common enough on a semi-frontier world like Gralmond, although its drive array was a thoroughly modern photoneural processor. With its high suspension and deep-tread tyres it could plough along the dirt track to the observatory in all weather and seasons, including the metre-deep snow of Gralmond's winters.</p>

Inline quotes

The q element is used for quoting text inline. Example showing nested quotations:

<p>John said, <q>I saw Lucy at lunch, she told me <q>Mary wants you to get some ice cream on your way home</q>. I think I will get some at Ben and Jerry's, on Gloucester Road.</q></p>


The i element is used for text in an alternate voice or mood, or otherwise offset from the normal prose. Examples include taxonomic designations, technical terms, idiomatic phrases from another language, the name of a ship or other spans of text whose typographic presentation is typically italicised. Example:

<p>There is a certain <i lang="fr">je ne sais quoi</i> in the air.</p>

Keyboard entry

The kbd element is used to denote user input (typically via a keyboard, although it may also be used to represent other input methods, such as voice commands). Example:

<p>To take a screenshot on your Mac, press <kbd>&#8984; Cmd</kbd> + <kbd>&#8679; Shift</kbd> + <kbd>3</kbd>.</p>

Marked or highlighted text

The mark element is used to represent a run of text marked or highlighted for reference purposes. When used in a quotation it indicates a highlight not originally present but added to bring the reader's attention to that part of the text. When used in the main prose of a document, it indicates a part of the document that has been highlighted due to its relevance to the user's current activity. Example:

<p>I also have some <mark>kitten</mark>s who are visiting me these days. They're really cute. I think they like my garden! Maybe I should adopt a <mark>kitten</mark>.</p>


The s element is used to represent content that is no longer accurate or relevant. When indicating document edits i.e., marking a span of text as having been removed from a document, use the del element instead. Example:

<p><s>Recommended retail price: £3.99 per bottle</s><br/><strong>Now selling for just £2.99 a bottle!</strong></p>

Sample output

The samp element is used to represent (sample) output from a program or computing system. Useful for technology-oriented sites, not so useful otherwise. Example:

<p>The computer said <samp>Too much cheese in tray two</samp> but I didn't know what that meant.</p>

Small print

The small element is used to represent disclaimers, caveats, legal restrictions, or copyrights (commonly referred to as ‘small print'). It can also be used for attributions or satisfying licensing requirements. Example:

<p><small>Copyright &#169; 1922-2011 Acme Corporation. All Rights Reserved.</small></p>

Strong importance

The strong element is used to denote text with strong importance. Where bolding is used for stylistic differentiation, the b element may be preferable. Example:

<p><strong>Don't</strong> stick nails in the electrical outlet.</p>

Superscript and subscript text

The sup element represents a superscript and the sub element represents a sub. These elements must be used only to mark up typographical conventions with specific meanings, not for typographical presentation. As a guide, only use these elements if their absence would change the meaning of the content. Example:

<p>The coordinate of the <var>i</var>th point is (<var>x<sub><var>i</var></sub></var>, <var>y<sub><var>i</var></sub></var>). For example, the 10th point has coordinate (<var>x<sub>10</sub></var>, <var>y<sub>10</sub></var>).</p>
<p>f(<var>x</var>, <var>n</var>) = log<sub>4</sub><var>x</var><sup><var>n</var></sup></p>


The time element is used to represent either a time on a 24 hour clock, or a precise date in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, optionally with a time and a time-zone offset. Example:

<p>Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed sovereign of each of the Commonwealth realms on <time datetime="1952-02-6">6</time> and <time datetime="1952-02-7">7 February 1952</time>, after the death of her father, King George VI.</p>


The var element is used to denote a variable in a mathematical expression or programming context, but can also be used to indicate a placeholder where the contents should be replaced with your own value. Example:

<p>If there are <var>n</var> pipes leading to the ice cream factory then I expect at <em>least</em> <var>n</var> flavours of ice cream to be available for purchase!</p>