Background: I suggested to emphasize the real answer in this answer about password checking ("you supply both the old and the new password") by making it bold. The suggestion was accepted, but shortly afterwards the post was edited again. The boldface was now replaced by italics only on the "and".

In my eyes the essential phrase really should be highlighted (20+ commenters seem to agree) but I didn't want to revert the edit without having heard opinions in here.

  • 10
    I'm not too happy with it. I mean, it's just a few paragraphs. If people can't read and understand the one sentence without it being bold, what kind of readers are we targeting? Either way it's just (different) aesthetics and writing style, which I think should not be the main concern when editing posts.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 19:35
  • 18
    +1 For asking before getting into an editing tug-of-war. I find value in judicious use of emphasis to draw the reader's attention to the main point without requiring them to digest the entire answer. However, when it comes to formatting I'd recommend one defer to the preference of the post's author. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 20:52
  • 2
    I think the issue is its a relatively minor edit. I wonder if either edits should have been made at all.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 1:34
  • Interesting that this was also recently suggested (and correctly rejected, IMO)
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 18:48
  • 1
    In a short answer like that, the highlight just looks odd and isn't needed. Highlight things like headings to make the organization of the answer and the local topic easy to see. If it was a really long post containing numerous points, it might be useful to highlight the primary point if it is buried. However, if the main point is buried, it is probably better to restructure the answer to put it at the top; perhaps even make it a stand-alone paragraph. The topic (first) sentence of a paragraph usually doesn't need highlighting because that's the first thing that gets read, anyway.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 6:12
  • 4
    If bold is a matter of taste, it shouldn't sanctioned since what really matters is a coherent writing structure and sentence formation.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:52

3 Answers 3


How a post is formatted is more a question of preference than procedure. While there are bounds most people agree are in the extreme (walls of text lacking any formatting versus bold/italic/* bullet point soup that shouts more loudly than the post content itself), there's plenty of room for differing views in between.

Here are a few guidelines I attempt to practice when formatting posts:

  1. Prioritize content. A post's value primarily comes from its message, not appearance.
  2. Less is more. Formatting should help the reader comprehend the post, but too much will create competition between the message and its presentation.
  3. Respect the original author's style (when editing). Remember it's his post, not yours:
    • If he's already formatted his post, think twice about doing so further.
    • If he's completely ignored formatting, then improve it where appropriate.

Bottom line:
Good formatting is a tool useful that when used properly shines the spotlight on the message rather than itself.

  • 7
    I really want to add an extra newline after "Bottom line:" :P
    – Josh
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 21:16
  • Yeah the bottom line needs an extra line, and the double colon should be removed!
    – SPRBRN
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 9:51

I'm strongly against this question because there is no correct answer.

Just. Kidding.

  • 10
    You really shouldn't misuse formatting just to kid around. Because this is Something Serious™. :P
    – pepoluan
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 7:28
  • 1
    Can I simultaneously upvote and downvote an answer?
    – Matthew
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 18:55
  • I'm mentally downvoting this because it (a) doesn't attempt to answer the question, and (b) it ends with two single-word sentences.
    – user
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 13:40

Well, technically it's not really bold text, it's "strong" text. Markdown actually specifies that the <strong> element be used to render the text, and a quick look around the web suggests that that means "strong importance" - in other words, text that is more important than its surrounding text. Important in the sense that, if you only see a few words from the whole block of text, they should be these words.

Basically, double-star markup is appropriate for TL;DRs.

So any time the **...** construction is being used to highlight a short phrase that sums up the post in this way, I'd argue that it's semantically correct usage. An edit that introduces such a change is correct, and one that removes it is wrong. I think the bold text in the answer you're asking about is an example, and it shouldn't have been edited out.

I also think it's such a minor change that it hardly seems worth an edit. If someone puts their entire post in bold (oops, I mean strong importance), or uses it for one sentence out of a two-sentence post, or something like that, then sure, by all means edit that out. Alternatively, if the post is extremely long and there is a sentence that provides a good short summary somewhere in it, then I could see it being correct to edit **...** around that sentence. But neither of those things appear to be the case here.

Either way, I can't see how the edit that removed the bold formatting was justified. Whether your edit to introduce the bold was justified in the first place, I could see that going either way, but that's not really the point of this question.

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