Is it acceptable or appropriate to use fonts, i.e bold, italic, in an email to an academic in order to do emphasise or organise the text ?

or would it be perceived as offensive ?

  • 5
    I (and many of my colleagues) typically don't spend much time on, or even open, emails which are not in plain text, especially if they are coming from unknown senders. Aug 19, 2016 at 7:04

2 Answers 2


I think this cartoon answers best your question

enter image description here

In summary, unless absolutely necessary, use a plain text. I you feel you need to organise your text it means your email already too long. If it is a draft of the paper, use an attachment.

  • 1
    The comic is funny but it doesn't answers to the question.
    – Our
    Aug 19, 2016 at 6:42
  • Some people hate attachments. Your mileage may vary. Aug 19, 2016 at 6:52
  • 3
    @Leth The main point is the length of your email. Some people (e.g. me) are annoyed by long emails, and they probably won't read it.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Aug 19, 2016 at 7:22
  • 4
    @Leth It doesn't directly answer the questions, but it makes a point about people overthinking emails to professors too much. The bottom line is: Keep it short and simple.
    – Ian
    Aug 19, 2016 at 9:21
  • 2
    @Leth Yes, Rama and mwormser do understand your question and are answering it. Fonts make it shorter but less simple. In general it is better to to keep it both short and simple. Aug 19, 2016 at 14:18

Unless you go full crackpot (multiple colors, fonts, all-caps in places) I don't think it's offensive.

And I occasionally italicize a word for emphasis, but only in a long and carefully written email to collaborators where we are discussing science.

I just looked through a few hundred emails that I've received, and I found that

  • faculty almost never use bold or italic
  • graduate students do it occasionally, especially when emailing about bureaucratic subject matter increases
  • administrators do it a lot

Draw your own conclusions.

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