What is the consensus around formatting? If things like bold and h1 tags are their in the formatting bar I assume it's ok to use them. I can empathize that one shouldn't abuse formatting since it would make the site look "messy" to say the least.

However I have some answers where I've put a heading (h1) and bolded a key phrase and some moderator has taken upon himself to remove it from each and every answer. If that kind of formatting isn't allowed why have it there at all?

if the normal formatting for h1,h2 etc is "obnoxious" I'd suggest decreasing their size and impact on the page. If h1, h2 etc shouldn't be used them why not remove them


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The old adage goes, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

You can generally get a good understanding of what the best practices are when answering questions by taking a look at what other people are doing: you'll notice the vast majority of answers do not use formatting the way you've been using it.

Indeed, the <h1> element isn't for emphasis, which is what you've been using it for: it's to denote the top-most section element. When you use it for emphasis, or when you use bold formatting excessively, the elements lose their meaning and it makes it harder to read your answer.

Additionally, it detracts from the purpose of the answering system on Stack Exchange: that the answers with the most votes are the most important. When you overuse attention-grabbing formatting elements, it detracts from other answers that are competing solely on merit, not formatting showmanship.

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  • I've never used h1 for emphasis, I've used it for a heading/title overlining the answer. If it's the first text and a describing title, how is that incorrect? Also if you're going to edit questions I'd appreciate you'd do the same for all questions since there's plenty of examples of other questions using headings and bold to the same degree I am in those questions. I agree that it is a strategy for attention grabbing to certain degree, a practice that seems widely spread on all stackexchange sites, but I've seen no rule against it as long as content is ok and it's not abused – Homde Jan 18 '11 at 15:36
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    @MKO in this specific instance, I took action because your post was flagged. Again, if you look to the vast majority of answers across the Stack Exchange system, answers don't have titles or headlines. If they did, I suspect there'd be a field dedicated towards it. – user8 Jan 18 '11 at 15:42
  • if there's a specific guideline against using h1 of course i wouldnt', but there isn't and it's explicitly allowed. I suspect most aren't using it because they aren't aware its there. Those who do use it are probably using it for "grabbing attention" very purposedly. But my question remains: if you never should use h1's even correctly, why allow it – Homde Jan 18 '11 at 15:46
  • @MKO The issue isn't using the tag, it's misuse of the tag: you'd only want to use <h1> and the other <h#> elements when your post has multiple sections. If you see other examples of egregious formatting use, please feel free to flag them so a moderator can take a look at them. – user8 Jan 18 '11 at 15:51
  • Ok, so the general "rule" for all the stackexchange site is that h1 is allowed only when also using h2 tags, is that the consensus? – Homde Jan 18 '11 at 15:54
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    @MKO you should be using your best judgement and taking stock at how other people write their answers. The vast majority of answers do not need to be broken out into sections—complete with section headings—at all. – user8 Jan 18 '11 at 15:58

Sometimes I've noticed the asker will suggest a formatting technique, in those cases I'd say it is certainly more polite to follow it (plus it proves you actually read the question).

Sometimes an editor will suggest a formatting technique. In that case, I'd say it's the responsibility of the question editor to modify all the questions involved - this should only be done for a very good reason.

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