I've noticed a disturbing (to me, at least) trend lately in a lot of answers on the main site. They're shouting. A lot.

We have this wonderful ability to add emphasis to things that need to be emphasized. But when more than forty percent of the text, or some part of every single sentence, in an answer is in bold text, it's no longer emphasis, it's annoying. (Or maybe self-aggrandizing; I'll leave the psychology of the motivation for the use of the double asterisks for another day.)

If you have key points to make, make 'em. But, frankly, the whole answer isn't a key point, ever. And shouting louder than the other guy (or gal) doesn't make your answer right, it just leaves you hoarse the next morning.

That is all. Thank-you.

  • 1
    Any specific examples?
    – rfusca
    Feb 27 '12 at 3:39
  • 3
    Jeez, I don't want to name names, just stem the tide a bit. And it is a couple-three people who are making very valuable contributions to the site despite the overused emphasis. I'm hoping to provide some food for thought before suggesting a patch to the engine that works like the xkcd YouTube comment reader, complete with vocal dynamics.
    – user2719
    Feb 27 '12 at 3:47
  • Gotcha, no worries
    – rfusca
    Feb 27 '12 at 3:49

Here is a good example. It was written and marked up by me, so I think it is fair to bring it to attention :)

I come from a corporate environment, where I only have peoples attention in emails for about 3 seconds before they close the email and file it away. If I don't highlight the main points, they won't take away anything from it. Not saying I condone it either, just saying it is a fact of life in my world, and maybe that sheds a bit of light on why I am prone to do such a thing.

In the example given, my choice of bold was poor, I could probably remove most of it.

  • 2
    Thanks for that. It is a good example, and also a good answer; the one I provided for that question was actually a supplement to yours, based on my experience with film. My only concern here is that the main site doesn't turn into a sort of late-'90s web (or mid-'80s desktop publishing) experience, especially when the question leads to answers based as much on opinion as fact (which was not the case in this instance, but because photography is both art and science, we're always sort of peering over the edge there).
    – user2719
    Mar 4 '12 at 7:15
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    I would agree that the markup on that answer is a bit over-done. You don't want the useful bits of marked up text to get lost in a sea of markup...you want them to stand out. I think this particular answer is a good example of too much bold. ;)
    – jrista
    Mar 20 '12 at 2:03

I've adopted a style here where I tend to emphasize key points with bold. It's partly because I tend to be wordy, and maybe I could work on that. But, I figure that this site is somewhere where people come to look for quick answers. Adding more "decoration" to an answer than I would in my normal writing elsewhere helps people skim.

I agree that the whole answer shouldn't be emphasized, as you say. But I am in favor of a site style which uses a little more of it than one might find in other contexts.

  • 1
    I agree. Brevity has never been one of my virtues either, and I'm probably a little too conservative in my markup sometimes. I didn't mean to suggest that bold, italics, lists, blockquotes (which are very much underused here, I think) and headings shouldn't be used at all—they are a great aid to readability when used effectively. It's only when it goes overboard that it works the other way around, like spam (the old-fashioned Usenet kind, not "unsolicited commercial email") with the caps lock turned on.
    – user2719
    Mar 5 '12 at 11:25
  • That's exactly right. I usually write so that the minimal answer is in bold and the text around it is details. It allows for two different levels of readers.
    – Itai
    Aug 21 '12 at 18:56

I am finding the bolded text to be more and more annoying and distracting every day. Part of the problem is the font used (Tahoma?) because the difference between the normal and bold is so significant. But the other part of the problem is that most people are overusing it, using it to highlight incomplete sentences/thoughts, or using it to highlight near-meaningless text. It would be awesome, IMO, if the bold button/double asterisks could just be removed altogether.

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