I've was recently asked to share my thoughts on the proper use of bold text in eLearning. Many organizations struggle with the choice between using bold text in training materials, including written documentation, eLearning lessons and PowerPoint presentations.
When it comes to my step-by-step workbooks, I'm a big fan of using bold text to call attention to important steps. But there's a fine line between emphasizing something and over-emphasizing. For instance, consider the following phrase: Select the File menu. I'd bold the word File, but nothing else. The phrase would look like this:
- Select the File menu.
When it comes to eLearning, I'm very conservative when it comes to styling text. Since it's typically harder to read text on the screen than it is on a printed sheet of paper, I tend to avoid making text bold unless the style is going to add something to the page. The best rule of thumb when it comes to screen readability is less is more. The more you format text, the less readable the text will become.
While I do use bold text in my books, and occasionally in my eLearning lessons, I try to avoid using the italic and underline styles altogether. In my experience, italicized text is harder to read than either plain or bold text. With eLearning, as with websites, underlined text implies a clickable hyperlink. If you underline screen text in your eLearning lessons, you'll likely cause confusion for learners who may attempt to click the text (assuming it will take them someplace on the web).
What is your opinion on using text styles such as bold, italic and underline in documentation and eLearning? I look forward to seeing your comments below.
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