Every now and then, I edit another user's question or answer and encounter something along the lines of the following in the post source:

Help, I need this question solved with these things:<br />
<ul><li>Item1</li><li>Item2</li><li>Item3</li></ul><br />

Can you guys help me with this? Oh and check here also <a href="vagueurl.com">Here</a><br /><br />


Of course, it works, and it renders properly on the question's page... But... it's a real pain to edit and keep the HTML formatting clean and valid. Furthermore users that are not known with HTML and want to edit a post, might have difficulty to do so. For most SU/SO/SF users it probably won't be too big a problem but I can imagine users from Cooking, Photography or any other SE site being like "What the hell is this?"

If you just stick witk MarkDown and at least use its full potential, you'll be using a standard that every user should be able to understand. It will also make the post structure a lot more clear.

For example:

Help, I need this question solved with these things:

 - Item1
 - Item2
 - Item3

Can you guys help me with this? Oh and check here also [Here][4].


  [1]: http://vagueurl.com

Honestly, I don't know why some tags are allowed. I understand that not every tag that is allowed has a MarkDown replacement, but tags like the <ul>, <li>, <h1/2/3> and the <br /> should at least be discouraged. We could for example display a warning similar to the "This question seems subjective and will most likely be closed as off-topic" that is shown when certain tags are used.

For example something like the following warning could be shown when the <br /> tag is detected:

You seem to be using the "<br />" HTML tag to create a new line. Stack overflow uses MarkDown to format posts, please use a blank line to create a new paragraph or a double space "  " to create a new line. For more help, please visit our formatting guide.

So, for the TL;DR people:

Why HTML in posts should be discouraged in my opinion:

  • Standardized formatting will make post editing easier and more clear in structure.
  • Standardized formatting prevents weird and invalid HTML.
  • The MarkDown editor used by SE does not "support"/use HTML formatting to insert images/links.
  • I'm not saying HTML usage should be banned, but rather that HTML is discouraged as much as possible.

What do you guys think?

  • 6
    For most SU/SO/SF users it probably won't be too big a problem but I can imagine users from Cooking, Photography or any other SE site being like "What the hell is this?" -- Possibly true, but at the same time, the chance that someone uses HTML tags for formatting in the first place decreases by the same amount. – balpha Mar 6 '11 at 16:31
  • @balpha Yes I agree, but still, it's just one point I'm addressing. – Pylsa Mar 6 '11 at 16:36
  • 2
    Be careful with madeup URLs, dubious companies buy them to get free traffic. VagueURL.com hasn't been taken yet but it is safest to use example.com which is reserved specifically for this purpose – Richard Tingle Apr 6 '14 at 12:10
  • @balpha, I respectfully disagree. I've seen many (often low-quality) questions asked on EE.SE by people with a fairly high rep on SO and related sites. While I know HTML personally for example the person with the highest rep on the site uses IE8 under XP and was quite annoyed the Winter Bash hats wouldn't work under IE8. – PeterJ Apr 6 '14 at 12:17
  • @Arjan Ah, the problem with bumped ancient posts – Richard Tingle Apr 6 '14 at 14:47
  • @Arjan Yes, but I saw this post 2 hours ago due to user3503363's rather poor answer without realising this question was from before example.com even existed – Richard Tingle Apr 6 '14 at 14:49
  • @Arjan Ah, I see! That makes sense – Richard Tingle Apr 6 '14 at 15:06
  • I am a new user, keen on html, I'll keep this in mind! – MattAllegro Apr 16 '14 at 21:55
  • @ShadowWizard Another viewpoint is that on StackOverflow, a post might have html markup as both code and pseudo-markup(like above). It might confuse an editor(unlikely, but it might happen). – cst1992 Apr 19 '16 at 7:35
  • @cst1992 true. By the way, you posted the comment on the question instead of to my answer, I got notified by chance because I also edited the question. :) – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Apr 19 '16 at 7:41
  • @ShadowWizard I thought it'd be inappropriate to post on the answer as it was a comment related to the question. Since you're the only answerer, I wanted to notify you. – cst1992 Apr 19 '16 at 7:42

The key here, in my opinion, is "discouraged", and not "disallowed". Let me elaborate.

People have their own way of writing, their own style and habits. Changing those can be really difficult.

Some people are just used to write HTML, for good and for bad. I don't think we should disallow HTML in posts, since this will drive such people away, and we would lose potential good content.

Instead, we should just keep an eye, fix their mistakes same way we fix other mistakes, and if we see a pattern of same user making same HTML mistakes, encourage that user via comments to use markup instead, explaining why.

As for auto warning, I'm not sure about that. It's intrusive and intimidating, and also might drive people away. I think we should trust those using HTML to know what they are doing.

  • Fair point. However what's the chance of me bumping into userX when I'm looking for posts on a site such as StackOverflow with millions of posts? Unless, of course, I'm following him. However, we could edit out problematic things like we always do. Chances are, the poster won't notice or care. – cst1992 Apr 19 '16 at 7:28
  • 1
    Not sure what you mean by "what's the chance of me bumping into userX"? If you refer to "if we see a pattern of same user making same HTML mistakes" then yes, I meant that if you see a mistake and the name rings a bell, take a quick look on that user posts, and check if that mistake happens a lot. And comments are usually not ignored by active users, I had such comments with more than few users over the years. :) – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Apr 19 '16 at 7:30
  • Yup I meant that that had a low chance of happening, what you say in your second sentence. – cst1992 Apr 19 '16 at 7:32

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