[Tex/LaTex] “Correct” way to bold/italicize text

best practicesbolditalic

Is either of these considered better/more readable/more "proper"/more conventional than the other for making text bold? If so, what is the reason?

I like my text \textbf{bold}


I like my text {\bf bold}

Best Answer

Marc van Dongen gave a great answer. I'll throw in another reason:

\it and \bf do not play well together. That is, they do not nest as one would intuitively expect:

Whereas \textit and \textbf do play well together:

This is nice. However, you may notice that it still fails to handle nested style adjustments to small caps, since the Computer Modern fonts do not contain slanted or bold small caps:

If this is a problem for you, then use the slantsc package in combination with the lmodern package. slantsc provides, among other things, \rmfamily (roman), \ttfamily (typewriter/​teletype), \sffamily (sans-serif), \bfseries (boldface), \itshape (italics), \slshape (slant/​oblique), and \scshape (small caps). With these, small caps can obtained in slanted form:

As a bonus, slantsc fixes \textsl to behave properly with \textsc, so you can continue using those if you like.

Alas, I haven't yet found a package which fixes the behavior of nested instances of \textit. In typesetting, when you nest italics, you're supposed to come back out of italics to roman. For example, the word "Titanic" below is in nested italics (which should ideally render as roman, not italics):

Tanaka, Shelly. On Board the Titanic: What It Was Like When the Great Liner Sank. New York, NY: Hyperion/​Madison Press, 1998.

As a workaround, one can usually write \textrm to temporarily return to non-italics in those cases, but of course this is only valid if you know the exact number of nested italic levels, which may not always be the case, especially inside a macro.


As others have pointed out, \textit and \textsl do automatic italic correction, whereas \it, \itshape, \sl, and \slshape do not. Thus, you can write \textit{stuff}, but you must write {\it stuff\/} or {\itshape stuff\/} to get the same effect.

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