CSS Basics: Understanding the Cascade, Specificity, and Inheritance

If you’re new to web development, CSS can seem like a daunting subject. However, by understanding a few basic concepts, you can start using CSS to style your web pages. In this blog post, we’ll cover the fundamentals of CSS and provide tips and tricks for getting started.

What is CSS?

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It’s a stylesheet language used to describe the presentation of a web page, including its layout, colors, and fonts. CSS works by selecting HTML elements and applying styling rules to them.

The Cascade

One of the most important concepts in CSS is the cascade. The cascade is the order in which CSS rules are applied to elements on a web page. When multiple rules apply to the same element, the cascade determines which rule takes precedence.

CSS rules are applied in three ways: through inline styles, embedded styles, and external stylesheets. Inline styles are applied directly to individual elements, while embedded styles are placed within the head section of an HTML document. External stylesheets are separate files that are linked to from the HTML document.


Another important concept in CSS is specificity. Specificity determines which rule takes precedence when multiple rules apply to the same element. The more specific a rule is, the higher its precedence.

Specificity is calculated using four values: the number of ID selectors, the number of class selectors and attribute selectors, the number of type selectors, and the number of universal selectors. The values are combined to create a specificity score.


The final concept we’ll cover is inheritance. Inheritance allows you to apply styles to an element and have those styles automatically applied to its children. This can save you a lot of time and effort when styling a web page.

Some properties are inherited by default, while others are not. You can use the inherit keyword to explicitly inherit a property from a parent element.


By understanding the cascade, specificity, and inheritance, you can start using CSS to style your web pages. While there is much more to learn about CSS, mastering these basic concepts will give you a solid foundation for creating beautiful and functional web pages.