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What is the relevance of “ @ ” in comments?

Apologies if this has already been asked. I noticed that when user's refer to others there is an "@" in front of their display name. So if some one was referring to my display name, it would read "@AGoodDisplayName".

My questions are:

  1. Is this done by stackoverflow/markdown?

  2. If so, how to do it (or is this just a convention that people are using?

  • I think it is normally used in comments, mostly to indicate that the comment is targeting a particular person/comment/answer...
    – Madi D.
    Commented Feb 10, 2010 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


It's just a convention people use. StackOverflow uses the @Username to notify users of comment responses.

See Jeff's post about the criteria for users being notified.

  • Exactly what I needed to know, thanks. Commented Feb 10, 2010 at 15:47

Yes, that at sign (@) is a convention used on Stack Overflow to address other people. The developers have taken that "convention" and made it a functional direct-reply mechanism.

But the convention started in other social media.

The first place where it became the social norm, I believe, was in IRC [citation needed :) ]. Participants would use the @ symbol to refer to other folks in the discussion by their nickname.

I believe the convention was adapted from e-mail, where @ was used to mark a passage as "attention" to someone (other than the main recipient) in the cc: list. If I was sending a message to Jeff about Waffle Wednesday, I might also cc my assistant, Marc. The message would look something like this:

To: Jeff
cc: Marc

I ordered sixteen dozen waffles for the office. They should be here by 10am.

@Marc, please confirm.


The @ symbol had no functional purpose in email. It was simply convention.


If you want to make it easier to do this, and you are using Firefox, you might want to look into these two Greasemonkey scripts:

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