HTML <bdo> Tag: Usage, Attributes, and Examples

By Cristian G. Guasch •  Updated: 09/25/23 •  10 min read

When it comes to mastering HTML, getting a good grip on all the diverse tags is crucial. One such tag that I’ll be discussing today is the <bdo> tag. This often-overlooked yet powerful HTML attribute plays a significant role in how text displays directionality on your web pages.

The <bdo> tag, short for bidirectional override, allows me to manipulate the direction in which my text flows—either left-to-right or right-to-left. It’s an incredibly handy tool when dealing with languages that don’t follow the standard LTR (left-to-right) reading pattern prevalent in most Western languages.

In this discussion, we’ll delve into its usage, attributes and I’ll share some practical examples to give you a better understanding of how you can use this versatile tag effectively in your own coding endeavors. So whether you’re just starting out with HTML or looking to add more tools to your developer’s arsenal, stick around as we explore everything there is to know about the HTML <bdo> tag!

Understanding the HTML <bdo> Tag

Diving right into web development, you’ll soon encounter a curious little thing called the HTML <bdo> tag. This obscure yet handy tool plays an essential role in text directionality – specifically, it’s used to override the current text direction in a document. Pretty neat, huh? In our increasingly globalized digital world, this can be especially useful when dealing with languages that are read from right-to-left (like Arabic and Hebrew) or left-to-right (like English and most other languages).

The <bdo> tag is pretty straightforward: it contains only one attribute—dir. This dir attribute tells your browser which way to display the enclosed text. It’s got two possible values: ltr for Left-To-Right and rtl for Right-To-Left.

Here’s a basic example:

<p>The normal flow of this sentence is disturbed by 
<bdo dir="rtl">this reversed portion</bdo> which is confusing!</p>

In this snippet, “this reversed portion” will appear backwards compared to the rest of the sentence. This example demonstrates how we can change text direction within specific portions of content using <bdo>.

But let’s not get too comfortable just yet! Common mistakes often involve overlooking language-specific punctuation rules while using <bdo>. Remember that reversing the text direction doesn’t automatically adjust special characters or punctuation—they stay where they are in relation to their immediate surroundings.

Consider this:

<p>I am learning Hebrew today: <bdo dir="rtl">שלום</bdo>, or Hello.</p>

In this case, although ‘שלום’ reads correctly from right-to-left as per Hebrew syntax, the comma following it appears on its left side instead of on its right as we’d expect if writing naturally in Hebrew. This is where you’ll need to carefully consider punctuation placement when using <bdo> for different languages.

So, we’ve covered the basics of HTML’s <bdo> tag. We’ve seen its purpose, usage, and a couple common pitfalls. Remember this isn’t just an obscure piece of web development trivia—it’s a vital tool for creating truly global content!

Digging deeper into the world of HTML, let’s take a closer look at the <bdo> tag attributes. This oft-overlooked element plays a crucial role in controlling text direction within a web page, and it comes with two specific attributes: dir and lang.

The dir attribute is what you’ll use to manipulate your text’s flow. It accepts two values: ltr, which stands for left-to-right, and rtl, meaning right-to-left. Let’s say you’re working on an Arabic or Hebrew website where the text naturally flows from right to left. Here, you’d use <bdo dir="rtl">. Conversely, if you’re creating content in English or most other languages that read from left to right, you’d opt for <bdo dir="ltr">.

<bdo dir="rtl">This sentence will display from right to left.</bdo>
<bdo dir="ltr">This sentence will show up as normal.</bdo>

The second attribute available for the <bdo> tag is lang. This one isn’t exclusive; in fact, it can be used with any HTML element to specify language. But when combined with <bdo>, it helps ensure your web pages maintain correct language context alongside text direction.

<bdo lang="ar" dir="rtl">هذه الجملة باللغة العربية وستظهر من اليمين إلى اليسار</bdo>

In this example, our sentence appears in Arabic (“This is an Arabic sentence”) and displays from right to left — just like natural Arabic text would.

It’s essential not to confuse the functionalities of these tags; I’ve seen developers mistakenly trying to set language direction using only the lang attribute! The key here is understanding that while lang sets the language, dir is what actually determines text direction.

There’s also a common misunderstanding that <bdo> is interchangeable with CSS properties like direction. While it’s true they can both control text flow, remember that <bdo> overrides any other direction settings on a page. This makes it a powerful tool when you need to ensure specific blocks of text display in the correct orientation, regardless of surrounding content.

Hopefully, this deep dive into <bdo> tag attributes has shed some light on their usage and how to avoid potential pitfalls. Happy coding!
Diving right into it, the HTML <bdo> tag is a unique tool in your web development arsenal. It’s used to override the current text direction in an HTML document. In other words, it can allow you to display text from right-to-left (RTL) or left-to-right (LTR), irrespective of what the default language settings might be. This is particularly useful when dealing with languages such as Arabic or Hebrew that are written from right to left.

Let’s take a look at how this works in practice. Suppose you’re writing a blog post about Middle Eastern cuisine and want to include some authentic Arabic phrases for added flavor. Here’s how you could use the <bdo> tag:

<p>The word for 'delicious' in Arabic is <bdo dir="rtl">لذيذ</bdo>.</p>

In this instance, dir="rtl" instructs the browser to render لذيذ from right to left.

It’s important not to confuse the <bdo> tag with its sibling, the <bdi> tag – they may sound similar but serve quite distinct purposes. While both deal with bi-directional text, <bdi> isolates part of the text so that any changes in direction don’t affect surrounding content.

Here’s another example showing usage of both tags:

<p><bdi>User comments:</bdi> <bdo dir="rtl">!مرحبا بك في موقعنا</bdo></p>

In this code snippet, ‘User comments:’ will still be displayed LTR even if ‘!مرحبا بك في موقعنا’ switches directions due to RTL settings because we’ve isolated it with ‘<bdi>’.

One common mistake developers make is forgetting about closing their <bdo> tags properly – remember, every opening tag needs a corresponding closing tag. For instance:

<p>Incorrect: <bdo dir="rtl">لذيذ
<p>Correct: <bdo dir="rtl">لذيذ</bdo></p>

In summary, the <bdo> tag is an essential tool for developers working with bi-directional languages. It gives you control over text directionality and ensures your content displays as intended, no matter the language settings of your users’ browsers.

<bdo> Tag: Real-World Examples and Applications

Let’s dive headfirst into real-world applications of the HTML <bdo> tag. It’s a handy tool in every web developer’s toolkit, enabling them to override text direction in their content.

Suppose you’re designing a multilingual website where sentences or words in different languages are intermixed. For instance, English (a left-to-right language) and Arabic (a right-to-left language). The <bdo> tag is your best friend here! You can use it to change the direction of specific lines of text, ensuring they display correctly. Here’s an example:

<p>The word for "Hello" in Arabic is "<bdo dir="rtl">مرحبا</bdo>".</p>

In this code snippet, even though the page may be set to English as its primary language, the ‘rtl’ attribute within the <bdo> tag ensures that “مرحبا” displays from right to left as it should.

Moving on to another practical use case – consider an online math tutorial explaining mirrored numbers or reverse sequences. You could employ the <bdo> tag again with ‘rtl’ attribute:

<p>Mirrored number for 1234 is "<bdo dir="rtl">1234</bdo>".</p>

Common mistakes? One major pitfall I’ve observed among beginners involves forgetting to close the <bdo> tag properly. If not closed correctly, all subsequent texts might end up displaying reversed! So always remember:

Another frequent oversight lies in neglecting browser compatibility checks. While most modern browsers support HTML5 and consequently, the <bdo> tag, it’s still crucial to verify this in older or less commonly used browsers.

Finally, don’t overuse the <bdo> tag. It’s best employed sparingly when needed to override text direction for specific lines of text or words. Overuse can lead to messy code and a confusing user experience. Keep its usage purposeful and minimal for maximum impact!

Conclusion: Mastering the HTML <bdo> Tag

Mastering the HTML <bdo> tag isn’t as daunting as it may initially seem. This powerful little tool can be a game changer when dealing with text in languages that read from right to left, like Arabic or Hebrew.

Don’t forget, the <bdo> tag is all about direction. It’s used to override the current text direction in your document. If you’re working on an English webpage but want to include a quote in Hebrew, for instance, this is where <bdo> comes into play. Here’s how you’d do it:

<p>Your English content goes here.</p>
<bdo dir="rtl">
  טקסט בעברית
<p>More English content here.</p>

The dir attribute is crucial here. It’s telling our browser which way we need our text oriented – ltr for left-to-right and rtl for right-to-left.

Common mistakes? I’ve seen plenty while helping folks navigate their way around HTML tags. The most frequent one with <bdo> is forgetting that closing tag. Remember, every open tag needs its corresponding close!

<!-- Incorrect -->
<bdo dir="rtl" 
  טקסט בעברית

<!-- Correct -->
<bdo dir="rtl">
  טקסט בעברית

Another common mistake is mixing up those directional attributes or leaving them out entirely. Without them, your <bdo> won’t know what to do! Always specify your direction — either ‘ltr’ or ‘rtl’.

Using and understanding how to properly implement the <bdo> tag can make a world of difference in creating accessible and user-friendly web content. It’s not just about making your webpage look good, but also ensuring it can be effectively read and understood by all users, regardless of their native language or reading direction.

Cristian G. Guasch

Hey! I'm Cristian Gonzalez, I created HTML Easy to help you learn HTML easily and fast.

Related articles