I just had an answer of mine edited by a moderator. I was curious to know while answering or asking a question on SO: is adding too many blockquotes or words in bold or highlighting certain sections of code bad practice?

Everybody wants their answers to be the center of attraction, but is it frowned upon on SO?

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  • 16
    IMO over-doing bold and italics makes an answer harder to read, and I'm less likely to look at it if the formatting puts me off. Block quotes are meant for things you're quoting etc. If it's not actually code or an identifier then it shouldn't be in a code block, and quite often command-line input and output looks better as quotes.
    – Rup
    Aug 26, 2013 at 9:40
  • 4
    Good content draws my attention, not the typeface. Aug 26, 2013 at 9:42

2 Answers 2


We don't have "highlighting" here. We have formatting, and formatting serves a semantic purpose:

  • Italic text is for emphasis, like the HTML <em> tag.
  • Bold text is for strong emphasis, like the HTML <strong> tag.
  • Code formatting is for inline code snippets, like the HTML <code> tag.

You do want to make sure that you do not overuse emphasis, because when everything is emphatic, nothing is emphatic. There is no reason to set half of your post in bold. Not all of that text needs to be emphasized. If people want to know what you have to say, they'll read your answer. Use this sparingly.

Furthermore, there is a growing trend of people abusing inline code formatting as some kind of "highlighting" effect. That's not what it is for. The clue is in the name: code formatting. If it is not code or some identifier found in code, it does not belong between backticks. Period.

And yes, this type of abuse should be removed by editors, whether they are moderators or just regular users. It cleans up the site, making the post easier to read and less of an eyesore. You should be thanking them, this kind of abuse of formatting tends to attract downvotes and other negative attention.

As for specifics: I assume that you mean this answer, which was recently edited by BoltClock. Indeed, as I suspected, you had abused backticks for regular words that were not code. Please do not do this. Sibling is just a regular English word. It is descriptive of something found in code, but it is not itself an identifier used in CSS. Setting "header" in inline code formatting was acceptable there, though, because "header" is actually a symbol used in the code. BoltClock left that alone. And there was no reason to bold CSS. Everyone reading the question knows that it's about CSS. Leaving "tilde" bolded would have been fine; that's just a judgment call. But if you tend to overdo formatting, people tend to overdo when removing it.


I think you almost answered this yourself, let me put some emphasis:

[...]is adding too many blockquotes or words in bold[...]

I don't think formatting should be used to put your answer in the middle of attention - it should be used to get a point across as clear as possible. Sometimes it is very helpful to split larger answers in several parts with highlighted headlines, sometimes it can clarify what the important parts of your answer if you print them in bold font.

If you use formatting to get attention, this is actually rather distracting; plus it can lead to the unfortunate circumstance in which a too much highlighted but sloppy answer receives more attention than a very concise and well highlighted one.

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