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Chapter 4. Basic (X)HTML Formatting > Changing the Size of Text

Changing the Size of Text

The big and small tags change the relative size of a given word or phrase with respect to the surrounding text.

To make the text bigger or smaller than the surrounding text

Type <big> or <small> before the text that you wish to make bigger or smaller, respectively.

Type the text that should be bigger or smaller.

Type </big> or </small> according to the tag used in step 1.

Figure 4.5. The big and small tags are a fast and easy way to make text stand out.

<h1>Barcelona Night Life</h1>

<p>Barcelona is such a great place to live. People
there really put a premium on <strong>socializing
</strong>. Imagine it being more important to go
out with your friends than to get that big promotion.
Even when you're, gasp, <em>pushing 30</em>.
They say there are more bars in Barcelona than in
the rest of the European community

<p><big>Don't get me wrong,</big> I don't mean
that everyone gets drunk all the time--bars are for
hanging out and talking or for having a cup of
coffee (espresso, of course).</p>

<p><small>The opinions expressed on this page
are mine and mine alone.</small></p>

Figure 4.6. The big and small elements enjoy wide support. They have identical effects in most browsers (Netscape above, Explorer below).


  • Of course, big and small are relative, and the specifications do not dictate just how much bigger or smaller browsers are supposed to make the text. In general, they stick to typical font sizes, like 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 24, 36, and 48, moving one step up or down the ladder depending on the element used. The default size for most browsers is 16px.

  • Although the big and small tags have not been deprecated in (X)HTML, you may still want to use style sheets in order to have more control over the size of the text. For more information, consult Setting the Font Size on page 162.

  • Both the big and small tags have a cumulative effect if used more than once. So <small><small>teensy text</small> </small> would be two sizes smaller than surrounding text.

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