Is Excessive Bold Text a Bad Idea?

A common practice among bloggers is to mark out sections of text with boldface type in order to call attention to that portion of a paragraph. It’s said to be a reading aid, to make the article more skimmable.

Is it really necessary? Should we be making it easier for people to half-read articles? Also, doesn’t it strike you as a bit condescending? Sometimes it bothers me. It’s like the author thinks I’m stupid and that I need to be directed to what I should pay attention to.

Has out society progressed (regressed?) to a point where people’s attention spans are too short to sit through a moderate-length article? Do people expect to be fed sound bites instead of real information?

On the other hand, skimming is useful in that it can help you get the gist of a post quickly, enabling you to speed through a lot of news items in a short space of time.

What do you think? Is it helpful to mark out an important sentence or two in each paragraph in bold text, or is it condescending and bad for society’s intellectual well-being?

  • mike

    I don't even find bold text an aid to reading … I find it distracting rather than helpful (just like frequent changes of colour).
    If the sentences are so significant that they need distinguishing, they'd usually be better written as subheadings instead.

  • Evan Kline

    I usually find it annoying, unless to break apart sections. In rare instances, it can be OK. That said, others might feel differently. There are all sorts of studies out there showing just how much people only skim posts.

  • Blaine Moore

    My site is about running and racing, so I usually bold people's names to make them stand out. One of the regional running magazines does that and I liked that feature so had carried it over to my website some years ago and just kept it up.