Angular logo - cssThe jQuery CSS method allows you to style one or more DOM elements

Let’s begin with the property, which provides the access you need to style any DOM element. As a front-end web developer, you should make it a point to be familiar with this low-level DOM API. But the property comes with challenges, the two biggest being:

  1. The syntax is verbose, which leads to repetitive, boilerplate code.
  2. You cannot overwrite the property, which means that you cannot arbitrarily assign an object to it.

Now while it may seem like a minor detail that you cannot overwrite the property, this limitation does negate the ability to assign a well-crafted object to an HTMLElement’s style property. It also severely minimizes code re-use.

But the jQuery CSS method provides a powerful way to sidestep the quirky limitations of the property. It offers the ability to style DOM elements in a way that is considerably more elegant and expressive.

For one thing, the syntax is based on method chaining; you chain the css() method to the result of any jQuery query. So whether your query returns one or many elements, the style property and value that you pass to the css() method will be applied to the element(s) returned by your query. And in addition to a more concise syntax, there is the potential for code reuse. And finally, something that is often overlooked about this method: you are styling the DOM element directly (as opposed to using an external style sheet). As a result, the styles you apply will enjoy a high specificity.

In its most basic form, the jQuery.css() method takes two arguments. Both arguments are strings. The first argument is the name of the CSS property that you want to change. The second property is the new value for that CSS property. When you execute the CSS method against one or more DOM elements, jQuery adds a style attribute to each DOM element. And then, jQuery uses the second argument you provided as the value for that CSS property.

Try it yourself !

In the above example, there are five paragraph elements. Click each paragraph. When you do, you’ll see that each clicked element turns red. Click the JavaScript tab. In the JavaScript code, you’ll see that there is a click-event handler set up for each paragraph element. As a result, when any paragraph is clicked, jQuery executes the CSS method against that paragraph. Two arguments are passed to the CSS method. The first argument is color, which is the CSS property that we want to change. The second argument is red, which is the new value for that CSS property.

So, the approach taken so far is a very simple implementation of the css() method. In this case, we are passing only two strings. These two strings act as key/value pairs for the specified style property. But it is also possible to pass an object to the css() method. Significantly, this approach allows you to style multiple properties of an HTMLElement. This, of course, is an advanced implementation of the css() method, which I’ll cover in another article; for now, it’s just good to be aware of it.


So once you’ve had a chance to work with the css() method a little, I think you’ll agree that it is arguably one of the most genius features of jQuery. It frees you from two limitations of the property, and in addition to the elegant syntax, this method provides a way to re-use well-crafted code, in order to style multiple DOM elements. And if you look into the advanced syntax, you’ll see that multiple styles can also be applied within one call to the css() method.