Have You Ever Bolded Text?

English is a peculiar language. It evolves. And growing up in Quebec, I was privy not only to English, but also to another language: French. French does not evolve. It’s “set.” And it would take a high council of the order of the Imperial Senate from Star Wars to unseat a word. English, however, is not like that. We can and do make changes as we go. This means English is highly adaptable. But as with most things that have great upsides, there is usually an equally opposable downside. Among other things, the sacrifice we make for our language’s dexterity is unclear correct usage, and an ambiguity of the rules, including so many exceptions to the rules that our heads spin.

One of those words that comes up time and time again when I’m writing about text is the word “bold,” as in: “I made this text bold.” This isn’t to be confused with “someone who’s bold is daring and brave.”

Technically, the term is “boldface” which is a noun, and means “a typeface with thick strokes.” But in normal conversation, we use the term “bold” interchangeably: We made this text bold. So let’s look at the many ways we could write this seemingly innocuous statement.

  1. I emboldened the text in that last paragraph.
  2. I bolded the text in that last paragraph.
  3. I made the text bold in that last paragraph
  4. The text was made boldface in that last paragraph

Emboldened is definitely wrong here. If text is emboldened, it usually references the quality of the text or the meaning of the text, as opposed to the font decoration. So that one is out.

Now let’s look at “bolded.” Technically, turning any noun into a verb isn’t accurate. For example, the thought of going “antiquing” makes me shudder. But again, English is versatile and evolutionary. So we do turn nouns into verbs all the time when we speak informally. If we agree with this practice then it’s perfectly acceptable to use the term “bolded.” However, I don’t find this reads very well and might actually be more confusing to your readers. Plus, again, it’s not very formal.

So we are left with the last two: “I made the text bold” or “I made the text boldface.” And in general, try to keep your nouns nouns and your verbs verbs.

Here’s a little more on the subject.

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