You know what would annoy the shit out of me if I were using a screen reader to read a bibliography on the internet? Listening to a goofy-sounding computer voice try to emphasize every single word of Journal of the Study of Obscure and Mostly-in-Latin Canine Diseases Affecting Generally the Respiratory System but Also Sometimes the Lymph Nodes or something. I don’t know that this is still a problem, but the idea is ridiculous in and of itself. Italic does not always mean emphasis, nor does bold always mean MAKE THIS LOUD.

Hey, you know, that’s true. That’s what <b> and <i> should be used for. Here’s what they shouldn’t be used for, from the same article:

The bold and italic tags are short. The emphasis tag isn’t bad, but the strong tag is way too long to be a good value per keystroke.

Yeah, semantic HTML uses tags that are longer than one character. <strong> is five whole more letters than <b>! Sounds like someone who throws around a lot of “u”instead of “you”, and “y” instead of “why” in textual conversations. Not someone I’d want to take design advice from.

I add

<b>

and

<i>

to things I don’t necessarily want bolded or italicized. I do it because they’re some of the shortest elements available and they provide a hook to style child elements in larger repeated widgets with very precise, complex layouts. If I have to wrap every word of text in a tag just to accomplish some goofy layout, I’m using the smallest thing available.

That sounds like a pretty poor layout.

Bottom line is, <b> and <i> have their place, but it’s not showing emphasis, nor is it saving keystrokes or because this layout is kinda complicated and I want some easy hooks.