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There's a problem I've encountered a couple of times on different SE sites. I have a complex question that requires a bit of context to ask. So I write a detailed post explaining my question, and then summarize it as good as I can in the title.

The problem is, sometimes people seem to only read the title, skip the explanations, and answer the wrong question. Even if the do read the whole text, they interpret the title too literally.

Of course, you could always say I should reformulate the title to capture the question more accurately. I strongly agree that one should try, but sometimes it's not possible to reduce the whole question nicely to one line. The best I can do is to anticipate how the question might be misunderstood, and clarify that in the text in the hope that it is read ("note that I'm not asking about...").

The other extreme is when people open the question, see a wall of text, and get scared away. I try to avoid this by putting auxiliary info, "what I've already tried" and "what I'm not asking" below a line, but that doesn't always help.

I think a solution would be to highlight one or two important sentences in the post. I've seen many people do this with blockquotes, but that seems wrong to me.

Can we get nice way to highlight the core question of the post, without having to abuse bold fonts or blockquote?

I propose we introduce a new <tldr> tag for this. Give it a very subtle highlight, and maybe limit the amount of text one can put inside.

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Start the post with the gist of the question. Give it a good, descriptive, title. That's what needs to be done. –  Oded Feb 12 '13 at 16:30
    
What is the problem with using bold? –  Origami Robot Feb 12 '13 at 16:33
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@OrigamiRobot Oh boy....a very subtle use of it is fine, but there are cases.... –  Bart Feb 12 '13 at 16:33
    
@OrigamiRobot: People seem to object to whole sentences in bold. It can quickly look spammy / obtrusive. –  jdm Feb 12 '13 at 16:34
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@jdm If the text in bold is spam, it is spammy. If it is relevant, bold away. –  Asad Feb 12 '13 at 16:35
    
@jdm If your entire post is in bold, sure. I just don't see anything wrong with bolding the important part as long as it's a simple summary sentence. At the end of the day what's the difference between bolding and highlighting? –  Origami Robot Feb 12 '13 at 17:01
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So, is this a proper application of the bold to highlight an important of a question? Or would the previous sentence, without further text, become spammy? When does it become annoying, and when should we use it? –  Grammar Feb 12 '13 at 17:05

2 Answers 2

Summary

We already have great formatting options for you to identify the core question

Detail

There are several options:

  • you should put the thing you most want people to read, at the top of your post
  • you can prefix a line with #, ## or ### for headings (levels 1-3)
  • you can put key sentences in bold
  • some people start their post with a bold "tl;dr", to identify the crux. For example:

    tl;dr we don't need any extra new formatting options: the tools we've got can be used to do the job

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2  
If you have to use bold/headings for others to understand your question...you probably need to work on your question. –  user7116 Feb 12 '13 at 18:24

This seems unnecessary.

You should naturally work in the executive summary, tl;dr (if you put the tl;dr at the end you're already behind in the game) or gist as the first paragraph of your question body. As it is now, the text here is used as the question summary preview on question lists, adding a bit of context to an otherwise bare title.

If answers come flying in that only address the title and ignore any nuance in the question body, that's a fine case to downvote. If you find that a lot of your questions are being treated this way, then you should look to editing the titles to remove any kind of trigger happy women in a blue truck scenario.

You have to write like a newspaper, but don't bury your lede.

Adding a new tag to deal with an issue that can be easily fixed with a little paragraph re-arrangement is going overboard.

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