0

It’s a fairly well known accessibility issue that italic fonts should be avoided as they reduce readability for those with sight issues and dyslexia.

(discussed here: Are italics on the web bad for accessibility?)

However, most text editing tools still give three big bold-underline-italic buttons.

Is it ever OK to use italic font?

How can the negatives be properly offset?

  • 4
    "Its a fairly well known accessibility issue that italic fonts should be avoided as they reduce readability for those with sight issues and dyslexia." - Have you got a citation for that? Because it's been discussed here before and I wouldn't say it's a 'well known issue'. In fact I'd put it more as 'disputed'. ux.stackexchange.com/questions/62742/… – JonW Jan 18 at 15:03
  • 5
    Possible duplicate of Are italics on the web bad for accessibility? – Rob Jan 18 at 15:14
  • pretty common knowledge, standard advice from dyslexia associations in most countries: dyslexia.ie/information/computers-and-technology/… – the other one Jan 20 at 22:25
  • The problem with general "do's and dont's" of typography is that they rarely are applicable equally in all contexts. For example, that link suggests you use Comic Sans. Which is maybe ideal for someone with dyslexia, but is likely the absolute wrong choice for the other 90%. So do take those kinds of suggestions as merely suggestions and realize that they are by no means universal rules applicable to typography in general. – DA01 Jan 21 at 21:23
6

I think it is perfectly fine to use italics.

The keys, in my mind, are to (a) use the proper markup and (b) use emphasis appropriately.

As far as proper markup, most (but not all...) tools for generating web pages will produce italic and bold text appropriately using tags <i>italicized text</i> rather than messing around with tons of different fonts or other strange things. If done with proper tags, not only will browsers display the text properly (including any additional variations via CSS) but screen readers and other devices will be able to interpret the text properly, either reading it straight (ignoring the tags) or providing some some sort of indication that the text is italicized.

I have seen exceptions over the years. The classic example, for me, is using HTML markup generated by Microsoft Word - positively awful. But most modern content management systems and tools create fairly clean, accessible markup.

Why you don't want to do is mix and match all different kinds of markup together. It gets ugly really fast. And NEVER SHOUT AT YOUR USERS.

  • I agree with this in general. I've been using italics for variety within a limited font selection in my app. I tend to think italics feel more friendly/casual, so I've been using them for conversational fyi's in my designs --- probably a gigantic accessibility sin but hopefully there is a way to style them such that any screen reader would announce them without saying "italic" or "emphasis" – pixelfairy Jan 20 at 23:14
1

The problem with nearly all 'font readability studies' is that they use a completely arbitrary set of samples and an arbitrary sample size. An example.

As such, what they are typically measuring is "within the confines of these 8 typefaces, typeset in these very specific ways, and based on the results of these 48 people"...which is fine, but ultimately is only testing that specifically.

And then we proclaim universal "truths" like "italics is bad for dyslexia". It may be, but we shouldn't assume that's absolutely true based on simple studies like this.

There are general rules of typography to ensure something is readable, and those should always be followed. But "never use italics" isn't one of them.

Ultimately if someone is dyslexic and they do have a preference for a very specific font, that is great, and thanks to the web, they can set that up on their local machine and use it, regardless of what your web site is using. And that's the ideal solution.

  • 1
    From my research of dyslexic users I never found any universal 'truths' about what is good or bad. Everybody has different preferences. Heck, I even interviewed someone who preferred yellow text on a (lighter) yellow background read as that was more calming and he could concentrate more. I concluded that designing for dyslexic users is really 'make everything as customisable as possible so people can create their own comfort settings'. In that sense, dyslexia settings are an extreme version of personalisation / customisation. – JonW Jan 22 at 10:39
  • @JonW sounds about right. Fortunately, web browsers do often allow for a lot of personalization like that. (Come to think of it, sounds like Apple's "reader view" set to sepia would have been perfect for that user!) – DA01 Jan 22 at 15:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.