Markdown editing help is a big help for anyone who is at least a little acquainted with computer use. Using editing interface is pretty obvious for people like us. On Stack Overflow and other computer-related sites, this level of computer familiarity is a necessity, but there are other sites completely unrelated to programming and computer use, where new users who don't understand how the formatting interface works come in relevant numbers. We should help them, not to require them to understand everything just because founders of the site were programmers. Editing help as it is now is not very helpful to such people and there's no low-threshold help (or at least I don't know about it). The result is that some users don't learn how to use formatting for months and they produce not-so-well formatted posts in the meantime. Well, we experienced users try to help them, but it's tiring to teach someone the same basic skill every month or so.

EDIT: the "editing basics" help would be better placed as an extra topic. First I thought it might be part of some of the existing editing topics, but there it would annoy us who consider the interface use obvious.

EDIT2: this question shows that there are people who need extra help with formatting of code blocks. Well, the question was asked when there wasn't so good support as is now, but from people who ask on Stackoverflow you can expect much higher level of computer literacy than for enthusiasts or experts at say cooking who might have problems to learn how to use web browser and Google. If they don't understand it in the first place (well, all the help @Bart pointed to anyone with at least mediocre computer operation skill must understand it if they try, but some users lack one or both from basic computer literacy and interrest for the quality of proper formatting), I don't know anything like this, just for non-programming sites. It doesn't have to be a help topic necessarily, just something I can find easily and send new users to if they seem not to have understood all the help which is there for beginners.

  • Well, you don't even have to know about markdown (all that much). The buttons are right there as well. As are various, fairly standard, keyboard shortcuts. So do you have any particular ideas beyond that? – Bart Dec 21 '13 at 22:47
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    You should load the site in private browsing mode and look at all the formatting help tips the toolbar shouts at you – random Dec 21 '13 at 23:11

Using my not-so-sockpuppety account I went and had a look at what's presented to new users. And that's actually quite a lot. While editing help requires most of us to click on the question-mark next to the otherwise already pretty helpful buttons, new users see this

The most basic help bar is expanded by default, with a link to advanced help and all the various markdown tips. Not only that, but when typing your highly on-topic question about borkedybork, the side-bar shows you the following

In addition, the buttons are as they would be in pretty much any reasonable document editor these days. And even common shortcuts such as ctrl+b for bold or ctrl+i for italic just work, placing the appropriate markdown around the highlighted text.

And as the anonymous commenter so eloquently notes, the same goes for comments as well

I'd say that's sufficient information. Are there users who still produce poorly formatted posts, even when the preview shows them how bad it looks? Sure. But I'm not certain any additional information would change that situation.

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    +0 I second what he says, heck, even comments show help to me as a new user. – Trab Dec 21 '13 at 23:38
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    And the toolbar buttons have hover text. – Arjan Dec 21 '13 at 23:46
  • Thanks for reminding. So the computer-illiterate lack of formatting is in fact caused by lack of interrest, not lack of help. On the other hand, I'm interrested mostly in an easy way to help those who didn't learn it in the first time, from whatever reason. I'll edit my question to be clear on that. – Pavel Dec 22 '13 at 6:14

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