What is an acceptable rule of thumb for emphasising content with bold / italics?

I read the FAQ but didn't find a reasonably explanatory answer.

I ask this because of the comments I got for my question:

Arjan's Comment

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    I actually think Arjan's comments are a bit rude. Especially the parenthetical in the last comment. Apr 2, 2013 at 7:08
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    @jadarnel27 and the upvoter of your comment: my comments certainly were not intended to be rude. And honestly I fail to see how someone could feel they are. Care to explain a bit more?
    – Arjan
    Apr 2, 2013 at 19:46
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    Personally, I don't see anything rude about Arjan's comments.
    – D.W.
    Apr 2, 2013 at 23:35

4 Answers 4


Having gone through the revisions of your question I would say that actually none of it needs to be emphasised. It's a very short piece of text that is easy to read without a real key point to be drawn.

The code formatting is correctly used for the code itself but I see no real reason to have error in backticks at all, that would seem to be used for highlighting which is misuse.

Perhaps you could justify emphasising the browser as it's specific to that, however you would only need to do this once.

I would say that italics are most useful when writing a sentence that would be said with an intonation (as above) that might be lost when just reading.

  • 1
    Most satisfactory. I don't know why this question got down-voted, isn't everything a learning process? Thanks. Just IMHO, other answers were kind of rude, except yours.
    – randomuser
    Apr 2, 2013 at 5:13
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    @Suhas, downvoting on Meta might be different. But as you only asked about guidelines and did not really give your own opinion, I don't really understand the downvotes either. That said: why do you think the other answers are rude? I feel they're just to the point, like most answers on Stack Exchange. Even more: the authors have taken time to answer your question. To me, that's helpful rather than rude.
    – Arjan
    Apr 2, 2013 at 22:47
  • I actually do find it rude not to respond to people who're trying to help, @Suhas. When accusing others for rude answers, but don't care to explain why, then how can folks improve? Also, you've not even taken the time to respond to my answer on your original question?
    – Arjan
    Apr 6, 2013 at 17:31

Don't use emphasis. It makes stuff hard to read, especially when used to the extent that you use it.

Don't use code blocks as emphasis, either. Use them for code.

The only time you normally need use emphasis is when you want the sentence to sound different. "I tried logging into Stack Overflow with my Google account in IE 8" sounds silly when read out aloud with the emphasis. When in doubt, don't use emphasis.

There's a nice cheatsheet on italicizing. The first point is the only relevant one here, really (and it applies to bolding as well).


If you need to emphasize something make it bold or italic. If you need to inline a bit of code use the code styling.

These formatting options are there to make a point stand out or to help with showing this is code.

These points mean that something like IE8, which is just the name of the browser, shouldn't be emphasized at all (in particular if it has been mentioned in the title or tag).

  • 6
    @Suhas: No, imagine you're reading it. Would you scream out "IE8"? No. Then don't emphasize. Emphasis is (more or less) not to be used at all, it hampers reading. There are some cases in normal English speech where you emphasize things (giving the sentence a different meaning). Use it then. Apr 1, 2013 at 15:24

I use bold to emphasize main points.

I avoid italics except to reference literary works such as books.

I use inline code to emphasize that I am referring to the name of a class, function, code expression, etc.

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