How To Bold/Italic/Underline Words In Plain Text

Plain text as you know has no formatting options. You cannot bold/italic/underline anything – but you can use specific characters to represent formatting that are easy to remember.

The old-school way of emphasis was to type in all caps. All caps is and has been considered TO BE SHOUTING for years, so you can’t do that anymore unless you want to look like an idiot. You can however use "enhanced plain text". This is a standard feature in the Mozilla Thunderbird mail client, but even if not using a mail client which recognizes enhanced plain text, it’s still easy to understand regardless.

For bold, surround with asterisks:

She sells *seashells* by the seashore.

For italic, surround with forward slashes:

The rain in Spain falls /mainly/ on the plain.

For underline, surround with underscores:

I'm a mother pheasant plucker; I pluck mother pheasants. I'm _the most pleasant_ mother pheasant plucker who ever plucked a mother pheasant. Signed, Ophelia Bhutt.

When you feed the need to emphasize text (particularly on SMS), using enhanced text is the way to b/i/u your message.

  • Michel J. Gaudet

    Playing the devil’s advocate here… So, I take it that these are just *INDICATORS* for others who _KNOW_ what you are doing, right? That by placing text between the symbols, that text will still /LOOK/ normal, but we *KNOW* what it is /SUPPOSE/ to look like if _ENHANCED TEXT_ was used… _*/ RIGHT?/*_

    hee hee

    Got-cha’, kiddo. And it NOW makes sense why, in the past, I have truly SEEN this in some blocks of text. NOW I know! 😉

    Thank you, sweetie.


    • Rich

      This is what your comment looks like in Mozilla Thunderbird, as that client does recognize enhanced plain text. Some other mail clients will recognize them as well (except when you combine, which doesn’t work). There’s enough use of this in email and IRC chatting where it is accepted in instances where you cannot use formatted text.

      • Bob

        bold testing