It's quite common for authors, in the post body, to emphasize a sentence which is 'central' to their question. It's often similar to the title, and for well-written questions with some introduction, elaboration, it feels quite natural to do so, especially if the question body is long. I'm sure you'll recognize the examples, which follow at the bottom:

  • A header "Question", followed by the sentence
  • An indication in prose
  • Blockquote (I used that at least once, when it stood out more – it's actually the reason for asking this question, thanks @unforgettableidSupportsMonica)
  • Bold formatting (or perhaps italic; I don't think a low level header is semantically appropriate)
  • Bulleted list with a single item

Which of these (or any other option you can think of) is the best, also taking into account accessibility guidelines? Or are there arguments never to use this kind of emphasis?



What is the proper way to emphasize the central sentence of a question (if there is any)?

My question is: what is the proper way to emphasize the central sentence of a question (if there is any)?

What is the proper way to emphasize the central sentence of a question (if there is any)?

What is the proper way to emphasize the central sentence of a question (if there is any)?

  • What is the proper way to emphasize the central sentence of a question (if there is any)?
  • 3
    Before the change in blockquote formatting was made to de-emphasize it, blockquotes were used as a highlighting alternative on Mathematics and MathOverflow (and perhaps on other sites as well, I'm not sure). That habit still persists to some extent; for example, the FAQ on MathOverflow on writing a good question still recommends placing the main question in a blockquote to set it apart from the rest of the body. (I personally don't find that to be its proper use, but ...) Feb 21 at 18:45
  • hmmm.... I feel it's subjective and should be left to the author's discretion. Feb 21 at 18:45
  • 1
    @RandomPerson yeah, I'm a prolific editor but I'm usually not touching these things if I encounter them. Still, accessibility guidelines are objective, so I'm hoping for a definitive answer.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Feb 21 at 18:47
  • @TheAmplitwist yes, I used that on UX.SE - if it would be 'wrong', I'm pretty sure somebody from that community would've corrected me :)
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Feb 21 at 19:00
  • 2
    Most are examples of overformatting, often by insecure writers. Feb 21 at 21:54
  • 1
    That block quote doesn't emphasize the question. It quotes a question that the question is asking about. Currently a suggested edit to use a bullet instead obscures the quoting & hence the question.
    – philipxy
    Feb 22 at 2:06
  • The reader is reading a question post on a Q&A site. The writer's goal should be to compose so that no emphasis is needed. The way to write clearly is to organize & phrase clearly.
    – philipxy
    Feb 22 at 2:08

1 Answer 1


A paragraph should be enough.

As a prolific editor on certain SE sites, I personally prefer to organize questions into the following flow: background issue - research & attempts - questions, with each section split into a paragraph (or multiple paragraphs when necessary). With this approach, the questions will stand out naturally because they are grouped at the end and does not really need any formatting. Though, additional formatting may also be applied if it feels necessary, like italic or bold to emphasize the core question, or lists if there are multiple related questions.

Thus, is using paragraph:

  • Good enough?
  • Feasible in general?

My personal opinion on other approaches:

  • Heading can be used if other sections already use heading. Otherwise, a single heading may look like it comes out of nowhere.
  • An indication in prose is similar to "So, [question here]" or "Thus, [question here]". While it may be regarded as minor fluff, it is still okay and natural to use.
  • I tend to avoid quote block (and its sibling code block) at all due to the arguments regarding accessibility readers.
  • Bold or italic formatting for the whole question sentence doesn't seem necessary, especially if the question is very long.
  • A single bullet list really looks strange and confusing.
  • Also, if anyone had attempted to use a single table cell to emphasize the question by enclosing it, AFAIK it does not work, even though the preview looks like it may work ;) Feb 22 at 18:43

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