Using Italics in Plain Text Email Messages

How to fake italics for emphasis

Illustration of italicized I

 Rakdee / Getty Images

Using italicized words and phrases in an email is a simple matter if you're using HTML or rich text format. True italics are impossible to produce in plain text and text messages, however. Instead, try these widely understood type conventions to add emphasis.

  • Insert a slash character before and after the word or phrase.

    Example: /This is important/

  • Enclose the word or phrase in asterisks to signify bolded type.

    Example: *This is important*

  • Type underline characters before and after the word or phrase to mimic underscoring.

    Example: _This is important_

HTML, Rich Text, and Plain Text Emails

You can choose the default format of emails in nearly any email client.

Choosing plain text mode in Gmail

Here are the key differences:

  • HMTL is a tag-based language that browsers use to render text. When you choose HTML as your email format, the recipients of your email see it as you've formatted it, complete with style parameters, links, and graphics. You don't need to know HTML to compose email this way; email programs provide formatting options in their composition windows, and the HTML tagging happens automatically, behind the scenes.
  • Plain text is just that: characters with absolutely no font, colors, text size, or other formatting information stored along with them. You might be able to set some parameters such as fonts and sizes in some plain-text editors, but these affect the appearance only on your own screen.
  • Rich text (RTF) is somewhere between HTML and plain text. RTF allows for basic formattings, such as font, font size, and font style (for example, italics).
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