Text is one of the core building blocks of the web.
When making a website, you don’t necessarily need to style your text; HTML actually has some pretty reasonable default styling.
However, text will likely make up the majority of your website, so it’s worthwhile to add some styling to spruce it up. By changing a few basic properties, you can significantly improve the reading experience for your users!
In this module, we’ll first look at some fundamental CSS font properties like
font-size. Then, we’ll dive into properties that affect paragraphs of text, such as
word-spacing. The module finishes with some more advanced topics such as variable fonts and pseudo-elements.
Change the typeface
font-family to change the typeface of your text.
font-family property accepts a comma-separated list of strings, either referring to specific or generic font families. Specific font families are quoted strings, such as “Helvetica”, “EB Garamond”, or “Times New Roman”. Generic font families are keywords such as
monospace (find the full list of options on MDN). The browser will display the first available typeface from the provided list.
font-family, you should specify at least one generic font family in case the user’s browser doesn’t have your preferred fonts. Generally, the fallback generic font family should be similar to your preferred fonts: if using
font-family: "Helvetica" (a sans-serif font family), your fallback should be
sans-serif to match.
Use italic and oblique fonts
font-style to set whether text should be italic or not.
font-style accepts one of the following keywords:
Make text bold
font-weight to set the “boldness” of text. This property accepts keyword values (
bold), relative keyword values (
bolder), and numeric values (
bold are equivalent to the numeric values
bolder are calculated relative to the parent element. See MDN’s Meaning of Relative Weights for a handy chart showing how this value is determined.
Change the size of text
font-size to control the size of your text elements. This property accepts length values, percentages, and a handful of keyword values.
In addition to length and percentage values,
font-size accepts some absolute keyword values (
xx-large) and a couple of relative keyword values (
larger). The relative values are relative to the parent element’s
Change the space between lines
line-height to specify the height of each line in an element. This property accepts either a number, length, percentage, or the keyword
normal. Generally, it’s recommended to use a number instead of a length or percentage to avoid issues with inheritance.
Change the space between characters
letter-spacing to control the amount of horizontal space between characters in your text. This property accepts length values such as
Note that the specified value increases the amount of natural space between characters. In the demo below, try selecting an individual letter to see the size of its letterbox and how it changes with
Change the space between words
word-spacing to increase or decrease the length of space between each word in your text. This property accepts length values such as
rem. Note that the length you specify is for extra space in addition to the normal spacing. This means that
word-spacing: 0 is equivalent to
You can use the shorthand
font property to set many font-related properties at once. The list of possible properties are
Check out MDN’s
font article for the specifics of how to order these properties.
Change the case of text
text-transform to modify the capitalization of your text without needing to change the underlying HTML. This property accepts the following keyword values:
Add underlines, overlines, and through-lines to text
text-decoration to add lines to your text. Underlines are most commonly used, but it’s possible to add lines above your text or right through it!
text-decoration property is shorthand for the more specific properties detailed below.
text-decoration-line property accepts the keywords
line-through. You can also specify multiple keywords for multiple lines.
text-decoration-color property sets the color of all decorations from
text-decoration-style property accepts the keywords
text-decoration-thickness property accepts any length values and sets the stroke width of all decorations from
text-decoration property is a shorthand for all the above properties.
Add an indent to your text
text-indent to add an indent to your blocks of text. This property takes either a length (for example,
2em) or a percentage of the containing block’s width.
Deal with overflowing or hidden content
text-overflow to specify how hidden content is represented. There are two options:
clip (the default), which truncates the text at the point of overflow; and
ellipsis, which displays an ellipsis (…) at the point of overflow.
white-space: pre can be useful for rendering ASCII art or carefully indented code blocks.
Control how words break
word-break to change how words should be “broken” when they would overflow the line. By default, the browser will not split words. Using the keyword value
word-break will instruct the browser to break words at individual characters if necessary.
Change text alignment
text-align to specify the horizontal alignment of text in a block or table-cell element. This property accepts the keyword values
right align the text to the left and right sides of the block, respectively.
end to represent the location of the start and end of a line of text in the current writing mode. Therefore,
start maps to
left in English, and to
right in Arabic script which is written right to left (RTL). They're logical alignments, learn more in our logical properties module.
center to align the text to the center of the block.
The value of
justify organizes the text and changes word spacings automatically so that the text lines up with both the left and right edges of the block.
Change the direction of text
direction to set the direction of your text, either
ltr (left to right, the default) or
rtl (right to left). Some languages like Arabic, Hebrew, or Persian are written right to left, so
direction: rtl should be used. For English and all other left-to-right languages, use
Change the flow of text
writing-mode to change the way text flows and is arranged. The default is
horizontal-tb, but you can also set
vertical-rl for text that you want to flow horizontally.
Change the orientation of text
text-orientation to specify the orientation of characters in your text. The valid values for this property are
upright. This property is only relevant when
writing-mode is set to something other than
Add a shadow to text
text-shadow to add a shadow to your text. This property expects three lengths (
blur-radius) and a color.
Check out the
text-shadow section of our module on Shadows to learn more.
Typically, “normal” fonts require importing different files for different versions of the typeface, e.g. bold, italic, or condensed. Variable fonts are fonts that can contain many different variants of a typeface in one file.
Check out our article on Variable Fonts for more details.
::selection pseudo-element to change the appearance of user-selected text.
When using this pseudo-element, only certain CSS properties can be used:
font-variant property is a shorthand for a number of CSS properties that let you choose font variants like
slashed-zero. The CSS properties this shorthand includes are
font-variant-numeric. Check out the links on each property for more details about its usage.
Check your understanding
Test your knowledge of typography on the web
Which of the following keywords can be used as a
font-family generic fallback?
italicis a valid keyword for
fantasyis a valid generic fallback for
"Helvetica"is not a generic keyword, but instead refers to a specific font family.
Which statement is used to convert the first letter of each word to uppercase? e.g.
This is a sentence. ➡
This Is A Sentence.
True or False: Use
text-orientation to align text to the left, right, or center.
text-orientationchanges the rotation of letters in a line.
Which CSS property can be used to change the space between lines of text?