HTML Underline Text – How to Use the <u> Tag with Example Code

In this article, we are going to learn about the <u> tag and when it is appropriate to use it in HTML 5.

In older versions of HTML, you’d use this tag as a way to underline text. We are going to learn about the new HTML 5 definition and ways to underline text using CSS.

What is the <u> tag?

The <u> tag stands for Unarticulated Annotation element. This element is a length of inline text that stylistically looks different from its surrounding text but has non-textual annotation.

The default style for this element is a single underline.

Let’s take a look at some examples of when to use the <u> tag.

How to use the <u> tag for misspelled words

A common use for this tag is to point out misspelled words.

<p>I was sitting in <u>orcestra</u> practice and the conductor was mad because we <u>didt</u> practice our parts.</p>

You can also use the <u> tag if you want to label Chinese text as a proper name mark. According to Wikipedia,

a proper name mark (Simplified Chinese: 专名号, zhuānmínghào; Traditional Chinese: 專名號) is an underline used to mark proper names, such as the names of people, places, dynasties, organizations.

<p> This is an example of a proper name mark:<u>书名号</u></p>

How to use CSS to change the style of the <u> tag

If you want to point out misspelled text, you can style the <u> tag with a red wavy line underneath it.

<p>This sentence has so <u class="spelling">mannny</u> spelling <u class="spelling">errrrors</u>.</p>
body { font-family: Verdana, sans-serif;
u.spelling { text-decoration: red wavy underline;

Avoid using the <u> tag for styling purposes

In earlier versions of HTML, it was appropriate to use the <u> tag strictly for styling text with an underline. But in HTML 5, the <u> tag holds semantic meaning and you should use CSS to style your text with an underline.

<span class="underline">This text was styled with CSS.</span>
.underline { text-decoration: underline;

Do not use the <u> tag for titles of books

If you are referring to a book title, you should use the <cite> tag. The default styling is in italics but you can override those styles using CSS.  

<p>I enjoyed reading <cite>The Great Gatsby</cite> in high school.</p>
cite { font-style: normal; text-decoration: underline;


The <u> tag is a semantic element that should only be used in very specific cases. If you want to point out spelling errors within the text, then you can use the <u> tag.  

A less common example would be to use the tag in Chinese proper name marks.

You should never use the <u> tag for styling purposes. Instead you should use text-decoration:underline; in your CSS.

Whenever you are working on a project, it is important to learn the correct usage for HTML 5 elements so you can use them in the proper way.

Posted by Contributor