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4.6.17 The b element

Flow content.
Phrasing content.
Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where phrasing content is expected.
Content model:
Phrasing content.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
DOM interface:
Uses HTMLElement.

The b element represents a span of text to which attention is being drawn for utilitarian purposes without conveying any extra importance and with no implication of an alternate voice or mood, such as key words in a document abstract, product names in a review, actionable words in interactive text-driven software, or an article lede.

The following example shows a use of the b element to highlight key words without marking them up as important:

<p>The <b>frobonitor</b> and <b>barbinator</b> components are fried.</p>

In the following example, objects in a text adventure are highlighted as being special by use of the b element.

<p>You enter a small room. Your <b>sword</b> glows
brighter. A <b>rat</b> scurries past the corner wall.</p>

Another case where the b element is appropriate is in marking up the lede (or lead) sentence or paragraph. The following example shows how a BBC article about kittens adopting a rabbit as their own could be marked up:

 <h2>Kittens 'adopted' by pet rabbit</h2>
 <p><b class="lede">Six abandoned kittens have found an
 unexpected new mother figure — a pet rabbit.</b></p>
 <p>Veterinary nurse Melanie Humble took the three-week-old
 kittens to her Aberdeen home.</p>

As with the i element, authors can use the class attribute on the b element to identify why the element is being used, so that if the style of a particular use is to be changed at a later date, the author doesn't have to go through annotating each use.

The b element should be used as a last resort when no other element is more appropriate. In particular, headings should use the h1 to h6 elements, stress emphasis should use the em element, importance should be denoted with the strong element, and text marked or highlighted should use the mark element.

The following would be incorrect usage:

<p><b>WARNING!</b> Do not frob the barbinator!</p>

In the previous example, the correct element to use would have been strong, not b.

Style sheets can be used to format b elements, just like any other element can be restyled. Thus, it is not the case that content in b elements will necessarily be boldened.