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In this post I’ll talk about styling text with CSS, using the following properties:

  • text-transform
  • text-decoration
  • text-align
  • vertical-align
  • line-height
  • text-indent
  • text-align-last
  • word-spacing
  • letter-spacing
  • text-shadow
  • white-space
  • tab-size
  • writing-mode
  • hyphens
  • text-orientation
  • direction
  • line-break
  • word-break
  • overflow-wrap

text-transform

This property can transform the case of an element.

There are 4 valid values:

  • capitalize to uppercase the first letter of each word
  • uppercase to uppercase all the text
  • lowercase to lowercase all the text
  • none to disable transforming the text, used to avoid inheriting the property

Example:

p {
  text-transform: uppercase;
}

text-decoration

This property is sed to add decorations to the text, including

  • underline
  • overline
  • line-through
  • blink
  • none

Example:

p {
  text-decoration: underline;
}

You can also set the style of the decoration, and the color.

Example:

p {
  text-decoration: underline dashed yellow;
}

Valid style values are solid, double, dotted, dashed, wavy.

You can do all in one line, or use the specific properties:

  • text-decoration-line
  • text-decoration-color
  • text-decoration-style

Example:

p {
  text-decoration-line: underline;
  text-decoration-color: yellow;
  text-decoration-style: dashed;
}

text-align

By default text align has the start value, meaning the text starts at the “start”, origin 0, 0 of the box that contains it. This means top left in left-to-right languages, and top right in right-to-left languages.

Possible values are start, end, left, right, center, justify (nice to have a consistent spacing at the line ends):

p {
  text-align: right;
}

vertical-align

Determines how inline elements are vertically aligned.

We have several values for this property. First we can assign a length or percentage value. Those are used to align the text in a position higher or lower (using negative values) than the baseline of the parent element.

Then we have the keywords:

  • baseline (the default), aligns the baseline to the baseline of the parent element
  • sub makes an element subscripted, simulating the sub HTML element result
  • super makes an element superscripted, simulating the sup HTML element result
  • top align the top of the element to the top of the line
  • text-top align the top of the element to the top of the parent element font
  • middle align the middle of the element to the middle of the line of the parent
  • bottom align the bottom of the element to the bottom of the line
  • text-bottom align the bottom of the element to the bottom of the parent element font

line-height

This allows you to change the height of a line. Each line of text has a certain font height, but then there is additional spacing vertically between the lines. That’s the line height:

p {
  line-height: 0.9rem;
}

text-indent

Indent the first line of a paragraph by a set length, or a percentage of the paragraph width:

p {
  text-indent: -10px;
}

text-align-last

By default the last line of a paragraph is aligned following the text-align value. Use this property to change that behavior:

p {
  text-align-last: right;
}

word-spacing

Modifies the spacing between each word.

You can use the normal keyword, to reset inherited values, or use a length value:

p {
  word-spacing: 2px;
}

span {
  word-spacing: -0.2em;
}

letter-spacing

Modifies the spacing between each letter.

You can use the normal keyword, to reset inherited values, or use a length value:

p {
  letter-spacing: 0.2px;
}

span {
  letter-spacing: -0.2em;
}

text-shadow

Apply a shadow to the text. By default the text has now shadow.

This property accepts an optional color, and a set of values that set

  • the X offset of the shadow from the text
  • the Y offset of the shadow from the text
  • the blur radius

If the color is not specified, the shadow will use the text color.

Examples:

p {
  text-shadow: 0.2px 2px;
}

span {
  text-shadow: yellow 0.2px 2px 3px;
}

white-space

Sets how CSS handles the white space, new lines and tabs inside an element.

Valid values that collapse white space are:

  • normal collapses white space. Adds new lines when necessary as the text reaches the container end
  • nowrap collapses white space. Does not add a new line when the text reaches the end of the container, and suppresses any line break added to the text
  • pre-line collapses white space. Adds new lines when necessary as the text reaches the container end

Valid values that preserve white space are:

  • pre preserves white space. Does not add a new line when the text reaches the end of the container, but preserves line break added to the text
  • pre-wrap preserves white space. Adds new lines when necessary as the text reaches the container end

tab-size

Sets the width of the tab character. By default it’s 8, and you can set an integer value that sets the character spaces it takes, or a length value:

p {
  tab-size: 2;
}

span {
  tab-size: 4px;
}

writing-mode

Defines whether lines of text are laid out horizontally or vertically, and the direction in which blocks progress.

The values you can use are

  • horizontal-tb (default)
  • vertical-rl content is laid out vertically. New lines are put on the left of the previous
  • vertical-lr content is laid out vertically. New lines are put on the right of the previous

hyphens

Determines if hyphens should be automatically added when going to a new line.

Valid values are

  • none (default)
  • manual only add an hyphen when there is already a visible hyphen or a hidden hyphen (a special character)
  • auto add hyphens when determined the text can have a hyphen.

text-orientation

When writing-mode is in a vertical mode, determines the orientation of the text.

Valid values are

  • mixed is the default, and if a language is vertical (like Japanese) it preserves that orientation, while rotating text written in western languages
  • upright makes all text be vertically oriented
  • sideways makes all text horizontally oriented

direction

Sets the direction of the text. Valid values are ltr and rtl:

p {
  direction: rtl;
}

word-break

This property specifies how to break lines within words.

  • normal (default) means the text is only broken between words, not inside a word
  • break-all the browser can break a word (but no hyphens are added)
  • keep-all suppress soft wrapping. Mostly used for CJK (Chinese/Japanese/Korean) text.

Speaking of CJK text, the property line-break is used to determine how text lines break. I’m not an expert with those languages, so I will avoid covering it.

overflow-wrap

If a word is too long to fit a line, it can overflow outside of the container.

This property is also known as word-wrap, although that is non-standard (but still works as an alias)

This is the default behavior (overflow-wrap: normal;).

We can use:

p {
  overflow-wrap: break-word;
}

to break it at the exact length of the line, or

p {
  overflow-wrap: anywhere;
}

if the browser sees there’s a soft wrap opportunity somewhere earlier. No hyphens are added, in any case.

This property is very similar to word-break. We might want to choose this one on western languages, while word-break has special treatment for non-western languages.

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