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I know that underlining non-link text is taboo because it confuses the user into thinking it's a link. I also know that similar questions have been asked but as I searched through them, none of them applied to this particular context.

I'm reviewing a website that is, for all intents and purposes, an online English/Language Arts course, and the lesson material is custom-formatted to read like a textbook. The exercises are in a different font-style than the rest of the body text and the portions of the exercises in question are underlined.

Is this ok? Is there another way?

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    Why not highlight the text instead? – Alvaro May 12 '17 at 16:49
  • I like that! I will recommend it to the content editor. Thanks. – j.keller May 12 '17 at 18:53
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Although you are correct in pointing out that links were traditionally underlined, it is not the only way ( look around this page :) ) to differentiate links. Links are generally colored differently and this also seems to be the pattern in the screenshot you shared ( text in red are links). Another major differentiator is the change in cursor on hovering on the link. So the underlined text in your screenshot does not look like it's outright clickable. But, yes, it could be confusing for new users.

In that case, take a step back to figure out why underlining is used. As I understand, it is to make a set of words stand out from the rest of the sentence. Typography provides you various features that allow you to create hierarchy in information. In your case, a certain combination of words is 'more important'than the rest. To create this hierarchy you may play around with the following: font size, font weight, font color, font family, styles like italics & underlining. I generally prefer to use only one of these to create the desired effect. But you could use a combination in case of conflict or you want the difference to be more stark than subtle.

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You have to design your documents for those of us who have vision issues and/or reading issues.

But underlining can also easily impede those with perfect eyes.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Could you expand on this answer? – Mayo May 12 '18 at 1:58

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