Underlined Text

Underlined is not a structural category. Most markup languages (including strict XHTML 1.0/HTML 4.0, and TEI), therefore, do not have an underline element.1

Source documents

Print documents

In print documents, underlined type in print sources is commonly used to represent one of the following structural categories:

  • italics (especially in typescript)
  • emphasis (especially in typescript)
  • book/journal/serial titles (especially in typescript)
  • hypertext links
  • low level headings (e.g. level four or five).


In manuscripts, underlining marks:

Structural encoding


In Strict (X)HTML, underlined text in print sources is commonly encoded using the following structural elements:
<h4>: Fourth level headings
<h5>: Fifth level headings
<em>: Emphasis headings
<cite>: Citation headings
<a href="URL">: Hyperlinks

Underlining in manuscript contexts (when used to indicate deletion) is encoded using
<del> : deletion
See Punctum delens.

Commercial browsers do not display most of these elements as underlined by default (the exception is &lt;a href&gt;. If your electronic document must display text as underlined, this must be controlled by external (e.g. CSS) stylesheets.


In TEI XML (P4), underlined text from print sources is commonly encoded using the following structural elements:
<head>: Headings (particularly fifth- and
sixth-level headings (i.e. <div5><head>/<div6><head>
or <div><div><div><div><div><head> or
<emph>: Emphasis
<title level="m">: Monographic titles.
<title level="j">: Journal titles.
<title level="s">: Serial titles.
<xref>: eXternal Links.
<xptr>: eXternal Pointers.
<ref>: Links.
<ptr>: Pointers.
In manuscript sources, underlining (when used to indicate deletion) is encoded:

<del>: Deletion

Most commercial browsers do not have a default stylesheet for these (or any other) TEI elements. Text-decoration (and other display characteristics) of the elements must be controlled by stylesheets, either directly (i.e. using a formatting stylelanguage such as CSS or XSL-FO), or indirectly, after conversion to XHTML for display.



Text-decoration (including underline) is contolled in CSS using the text-decoration property. All textual elements can be assigned a value for this property. Relevant values for underlined text are

underline: Suitable for most occurrences in print sources
line-through: Strikethrough (commonly used to indicate deletions).

Other allowable values include

overline: text is displayed with a line above each letter
blink: text flashes on and off
"string": text is aligned to the supplied string


em {
text-decoration: underline;

del {
text-decoration: line-through;


There is no relevant category in XSLT.




To underline text in LaTeX, simply use the \underline command.

For more information on \underline, http://www-h.eng.cam.ac.uk/help/tpl/textprocessing/teTeX/latex/latex2e-html/ltx-336.html.

For more on LaTeX, see Hypertext Help with LaTeX at http://www-h.eng.cam.ac.uk/help/tpl/textprocessing/teTeX/latex/latex2e-html/index.html.


\underline{This is underlined.} This is not.


1 Early versions of HTML used the element <u> to encode underlined text. This usage is now deprecated in transitional versions of XHTML 1.0/HTML 4.0 and forbidden by the strict DTD.

This page was copied from the DM wiki where it was last edited by Dominique Stutzmann on 14:52, 19 February 2012.

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