How to Create Emphasis in a Sentence, Word, or Text

author By Mary Boies

There are generally two ways to add emphasis in written work – through the use of formatting & punctuation and through changing sentence structure.

In academic writing, underlining, changing sentence structure, and using italics remain the most plausible means of emphasizing words in essays, research papers, term papers, and other written assignments. In non-academic or informal writing, you can use boldface, italics, underlining, and punctuation marks. All the same, a little use of these is recommended either way.

In this post, we will look at all the different ways to add emphasis to your formal or informal writing. By the time you are done reading this post, you should be able to effortlessly emphasize keywords, terms, or points in your writing.

Formatting and Punctuation

You can format your academic and non-academic written pieces for emphasis by using punctuation and formatting, including italics, underlining, boldface, all caps, exclamation marks, em dash and colon, different font sizes, quote marks, commas, and small caps. It depends on whether you emphasize a particular word, sentence, or section. Let’s look at each strategy to know what works best for your writing situation.

1. Boldface

People use boldface in writing, particularly to highlight headings and subheadings. Many people do not know that they can also use boldface deep in their texts to emphasize keywords and messages.

You can use boldface anywhere in your texts to stress important terms and points. However, you should use this extra emphasis technique sparingly, as it can make your work look disorganized if you overuse it.

Instead of using boldface, some writers use asterisks. They put one asterisk before and one after a word or a phrase they want to highlight, which has the same emphasizing effect as using boldface.


2. Uppercase

Writing your key points or messages in uppercase letters is another great way to emphasize your writing. Mainly, writing in all caps quickly grabs the attention of the reader. Experienced writers prefer using all-caps to bring the reader’s attention to something they should not forget.

While using all-caps to highlight your critical points effectively emphasizes them, you should never overuse this technique. Reading a long sentence or block of words in all caps is fatiguing. Furthermore, writing so many words in all-caps may make your work look disorganized and make your writing sound aggressive. When you use all-caps on a word to emphasize it, some people can interpret it as shouting.



Quotes or quotation marks are most commonly used in writing to mock or show irony and add emphasis. Writers who use them to create emphasis only use them when absolutely necessary, and this is usually when they want to capture a new word or term that needs to be considered in a special way.

The reason quotes are only used when necessary to create emphasis is that quotes are more commonly used to show irony. Therefore, to avoid confusion, writers often use them only when they really need to.


4. Italics

Writing in italics is one of the best ways to add extra emphasis to your writing, especially in academic writing. All you need to do to use this technique to emphasize a word or a point in your writing is to italicize it.

When you italicize a word or a term, the reader will be quickly drawn to it, and it will most likely stick in their mind. There is no better and more discreet way to create emphasis in writing than using italics.


5. Different Font Size

One of the best ways to emphasize words or phrases in your written piece is by increasing or decreasing the font size of the word or term you want to highlight. This technique of creating emphasis is most commonly used in magazines, ads, articles, blogs, etc. This is because it is a casual way to emphasize a particular word.

While using a different font size to emphasize your work is okay, it is not okay in serious publications such as essays and journals. This is because most such publications have formatting requirements that need to be strictly adhered to.


6. Underlining

Underlining a single word or phrase is also an excellent way to bring focus to it. It is something that most people did in elementary school and high school when taking notes to highlight the key points. Highlighting critical issues in blogs and other casual writings is also acceptable.

However, it should be noted that in more serious publications like essays and journal articles, underlining to create emphasis is usually not tolerated. Therefore, if you are writing an essay or academic article, you shouldn’t use underlining to create emphasis. Some professors and instructors will insist that you underline the thesis statement in an essay so that they can spot it as they mark.


7. Small Caps

As covered a few moments earlier, you can use uppercase or all-caps to emphasize your written work. A variation of this technique is using small caps to create emphasis, and small caps are uppercase letters but in the same font size as the lowercase letters.

This method of creating emphasis is often used to introduce the first word or letter in a new section or chapter of a written work. It is also occasionally used in place of italics, boldface, and all-caps, to create better emphasis.


8. Exclamation

As a rule, you should only use one exclamation mark or point at a time. When you add two or three, your writing sounds like shouting or screaming, which brings onboard an unprofessional tone similar to all-caps. We also recommend that you only use them sparingly in informal writing.

You can use the exclamation mark or point to emphasize a surprising fact or point. You can also use the exclamation point to make a sentence more dramatic.

While an exclamation mark is an excellent tool for adding emphasis, it is not recommended for academic writing. It tends to bring drama to academic writing, which most academic readers do not appreciate.


9. Commas

We can use commas to emphasize an interjection. Using commas in this way focuses on the interjection by slowing down the reader and making them pay attention to it.

Instead of using commas to highlight an interjection, some writers use dashes. Check out how to use commas and dashes to create emphasis below.


10. Em Dash and Colon

The em dash, which is a dash the length of three hyphens, can also be used to show emphasis or draw attention to a word, phrase, or entire clause — with great effect. It can be used — within a sentence or at the end of the sentence. The use of the colon is almost similar to the em dash, only that of comes at the end of the sentence. Like other helpful emphasis tools in formal and informal writing, you must use them sparingly or lose their taste.

Understanding how to create emphasis can help you read effectively at the university and graduate levels. You can also ruminate on the content of professional and informal pieces.

Changing Sentence Structure

If you are wondering how to show emphasis in a sentence other than formatting, it would be great to know that you can change the sentence structure to achieve that objective.

1. Make an announcement

Changing sentence structure to make an announcement is a great way to add emphasis to your writing, and this is because it allows you to add emphasis in a yet subtle way.


2. Order

Altering sentence structure to give an order is another good way to create emphasis in written work, and this is because it allows you to draw focus on precisely what you want to emphasize.


3. Negative-Positive Restatement

You can use negative-positive restatement to emphasize something in your writing. Negative-positive restatement is about stating something first as what it isn’t and then as what it is.


4. Place Subject After Verb

By reversing word order in your sentence and placing the subject after a verb, you can add emphasis to your writing. You can alert the reader to what you are about to say and make them remember it long after they are done reading your work.


5. Use Short Sentences

You can use short sentences to achieve emphasis in your written work. The way to do this is to write normal-length sentences and then use a short sentence to highlight something important.

6. Front Loading

Front loading is another popular way to create emphasis. Front loading means moving prepositional phrases and adverbials forward before the subject and the action. When done correctly, front loading makes the perfect emphasis.


Even as this Ends! ...

The emphasis on writing is critical to creating and maintaining the readers' interest, and it helps readers glean the main points of a text without struggling throughout the text.

In connection to what we have explored here, you can also read other guides to become an all-rounded writer and further hone your academic and professional writing skills.

Related Articles:

Hopefully, our work has shown you how to emphasize words, terms, and points in your writing. The examples have also shown you how various emphasis-creation techniques can be used.

If you want an essay that correctly emphasizes all the key points and messages, order it now on our home page. We write all our essays without AI assistance and check for plagiarism before delivery.


How can I emphasize a word in an essay?

Like any academic writing task, using italics or underlining is the preferred way to emphasize phrases or words when necessary. The key is to choose one method and consistently use it throughout the essay or research paper. Italics allow you to stress a word in a sentence, but you should not overdo it. Another use of italics in essays and research papers (in academic writing) is mentioning the names of books, songs, or other pieces of literature without including punctuation.

How do you emphasize text in writing?

If you are typing your text in a word processor, you can use formatting, punctuation, and sentence structure to achieve emphasis. Formatting entails using boldface, seriation, changing font size, all-caps, italics, and underlining the word or phrase to emphasize. You can also use punctuation such as exclamation points, quotation marks, colon, semicolon, underscore, or em dash. Introducing adverbs and adverb phrases can also help you achieve emphasis in writing, especially when you want to point the reader to key facts and phrases in a text. If you are writing a series of sentences, you can use a short emphatic sentence that punctuates the critical point.  

When should italics be used?

In essays and research papers (academic/formal writing), Italics denote the titles and names of specific works, objects, or creations to allow the title or name to stand out in a sentence. They are also used for emphasis in writing but sparingly. When used to achieve the latter, italics help distinguish a particular word or phrase from the other parts of a text and draw readers' attention to it. In informal writing, they can also emphasize specific words or phrases in a sentence.

What punctuation do you use for emphasis?

You can use a colon, exclamation points, quotation marks, commas, asterisks, em dash, and underscore to call attention to a word or phrase in a text. As we have expounded above, moderation when using this punctuation or marks of emphasis is needed as overusing them does the opposite of emphasis.

Can you use a dash for emphasis?

You can use an em dash instead of a comma, colon, or semicolon for greater emphasis. An em dash denotes a break or pause. Nevertheless, a little use of it is highly encouraged, as overdoing it dilutes the structure and digestibility of your written piece.

How do you emphasize words in a speech?

When giving a speech, you can also emphasize a word or phrase. You can slow the speech rate so the audience can get the vital information you convey. You can also pause before the word or phrases you want to emphasize. Doing so grabs the audience's attention, alerting them that what comes next is important. You can also raise your voice slightly higher than the normal tone you were using and accompany it with gestures or repetition to emphasize the word or phrase that comes next.

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