<em>: The Emphasis element

The HTML <em> element marks text that has stress emphasis. The <em> element can be nested, with each level of nesting indicating a greater degree of emphasis.

Content categories Flow content, phrasing content, palpable content.
Permitted content Phrasing content.
Tag omission None, both the starting and ending tag are mandatory.
Permitted parents Any element that accepts phrasing content.
Implicit ARIA role No corresponding role
Permitted ARIA roles Any
DOM interface HTMLElement Up to Gecko 1.9.2 (Firefox 4) inclusive, Firefox implements the HTMLSpanElement interface for this element.


This element only includes the global attributes.

Usage notes

The <em> element is for words that have a stressed emphasis compared to surrounding text, which is often limited to a word or words of a sentence and affects the meaning of the sentence itself.

Typically this element is displayed in italic type. However, it should not be used simply to apply italic styling; use the CSS font-style property for that purpose. Use the <cite> element to mark the title of a work (book, play, song, etc.). Use the <i> element to mark text that is in an alternate tone or mood, which covers many common situations for italics such as scientific names or words in other languages. Use the <strong> element to mark text that has greater importance than surrounding text.

<i> vs. <em>

New developers are often confused at seeing multiple elements that produce similar results. <em> and <i> are a common example, since they both italicize text. What's the difference? Which should you use?

By default, the visual result is the same. However, the semantic meaning is different. The <em> element represents stress emphasis of its contents, while the <i> element represents text that is set off from the normal prose, such a foreign word, fictional character thoughts, or when the text refers to the definition of a word instead of representing its semantic meaning. (The title of a work, such as the name of a book or movie, should use <cite>.)

This means the right one to use depends on the situation. Neither is for purely decorational purposes, that's what CSS styling is for.

An example for <em> could be: "Just do it already!", or: "We had to do something about it". A person or software reading the text would pronounce the words in italics with an emphasis, using verbal stress.

An example for <i> could be: "The Queen Mary sailed last night". Here, there is no added emphasis or importance on the word "Queen Mary". It is merely indicated that the object in question is not a queen named Mary, but a ship named Queen Mary. Another example for <i> could be: "The word the is an article".


The <em> element is often used to indicate an implicit or explicit contrast.

  In HTML 5, what was previously called
  <em>block-level</em> content is now called
  <em>flow</em> content.



Specification Status Comment
HTML Living Standard
The definition of '<em>' in that specification.
Living Standard
The definition of '<em>' in that specification.
HTML 4.01 Specification
The definition of '<em>' in that specification.

Browser compatibility

ChromeEdgeFirefoxInternet ExplorerOperaSafariAndroid webviewChrome for AndroidFirefox for AndroidOpera for AndroidSafari on iOSSamsung Internet
emChrome Full support 1Edge Full support 12Firefox Full support 1IE Full support YesOpera Full support YesSafari Full support YesWebView Android Full support YesChrome Android Full support YesFirefox Android Full support 4Opera Android Full support YesSafari iOS Full support YesSamsung Internet Android Full support Yes


Full support
Full support

See also