HTML <em> Tag

The HTML <em> tag represents stress emphasis of its contents.

The <em> tag is used when you need to emphasize a particular word or phrase within a sentence. The placement of stress emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence.

Also see the <strong> and <b> tags.


The <em> tag is written as <em></em> with the emphasized content inserted between the start and end tags.

Like this:


Basic tag usage

Here, the words "chameleon" and the second occurence of "comedian" have stress emphasis, which means that the speakers want to emphasize these words.

Moving the Stress Emphasis

Here, Rupert replies again with the same "I am a comedian" line. However, this time he has moved the stress-emphasis to the word "am". By moving the stress emphasis, the meaning of the sentence has changed. This time his occupation is under question, so he emphasizes "am" to stress that he really is what he says he is.

Nested <em> Elements

You can nest multiple <em> elements inside each other. This provides extra stress emphasis to the words enclosed in the inner <em> tags.

Once again, Rupert replies again with his stock-standard "I am a comedian" line. However, this time he is angry. Nobody questions Rupert's occupation - especially when he is so obviously a funny guy!

To demonstrate Rupert's frustration, we enclose the whole sentence in <em> tags. We also add another <em> element to the word "am" seeing as he's fighting hard to convince Jane that he is a comedian (fighting a losing battle by the looks of it too!).

Styling Nested <em> Elements

It's likely that your browser didn't render the nested <em> element any different than the outer element. So the user can't tell that the word "am" has even more stress emphasis than the rest of the sentence.

To overcome this, you could use CSS to style the inner element so that it stands out from the rest of the sentence.

Here's an example:


Attributes can be added to an HTML element to provide more information about how the element should appear or behave.

There are 3 kinds of attributes that you can add to your HTML tags: Element-specific, global, and event handler content attributes.

The <em> element accepts the following attributes.

Element-Specific Attributes

This table shows the attributes that are specific to the <em> tag/element.


Global Attributes

The following attributes are standard across all HTML5 elements. Therefore, you can use these attributes with the <em> tag , as well as with all other HTML tags.

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 global attributes.

Event Handler Content Attributes

Event handler content attributes enable you to invoke a script from within your HTML. The script is invoked when a certain "event" occurs. Each event handler content attribute deals with a different event.

Below are the standard HTML5 event handler content attributes.

Again, you can use any of these with the <em> element, as well as any other HTML5 element.

For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.

Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML 5


To see more detail on the two versions see HTML5 <em> Tag and HTML4 <em> Tag. Also check out the links to the official specifications below.


Here's a template for the <em> tag with all available attributes for the tag (based on HTML5). These are grouped into attribute types, each type separated by a space. In many cases, you will probably only need one or two (if any) attributes. Simply remove the attributes you don't need.

Note that the <em> element does not actually have any local attributes (i.e. attributes that are specific to the element), but the following global attributes and event handlers are available to the element (and all other HTML elements).

For more information on attributes for this tag, see HTML5 <em> Tag and HTML4 <em> Tag.

Tag Details

For more details about the <em> tag, see HTML5 <em> Tag and HTML4 <em> Tag.


Here are the official specifications for the <em> element.

What's the Difference?

W3C creates "snapshot" specifications that don't change once defined. So the HTML5 specification won't change once it becomes an official recommendation. WHATWG on the other hand, develops a "living standard" that is updated on a regular basis. In general, you will probably find that the HTML living standard will be more closely aligned to the current W3C draft than to the HTML5 specification.