Inspired by this question, I would like to find a comprehensive list of formatting elements recommended for use when asking and answering here.
In fact, I would like to have two lists:

  1. For each meaning, what formatting to use;
  2. When reading someone's formatting, to comprehend what the author wanted to say;

What formatting to use:

  • A discussed word in a context: "You should use knight, not night in this sentence"
  • A quotation from a dictionary;
  • A dialog or a large text sample;
  • Lists — numbered or bulleted? Is nesting allowed?
  • A quotation from an original question;

How to understand if the post contains:

  • Italic;
  • Backticks;
  • Quotation marks;

Also, are there any special rules for formatting question titles?
Also, should I use special signs like → (→)?

  • 4
    I think consistency within an answer is the most important thing. As long as you're not switching up your use of quotes, italics, backticks, etc. within the same answer, your answer should be clear and readable--which is what really matters :)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 20:35
  • 5
    There is virtually never an appropriate time to use backticks here.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 2:19
  • @tchrist IPA, for example? Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 2:26
  • 2
    There's no need for backticks with IPA - Arial handles it just dandy. Linguists mark phonemic transcriptions in slashes, /æ/, and phonetic transcriptions in square brackets, [æ]. The only thing you have to use backticks/code for is tables. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


I'm noticing an uptick in the number of posts where


is being used over


Can we agree that blockquote is preferable?

Unlike **pre-formatted**

Blockquote allows formatting, doesn't use a fixed width font, and wraps nicely

I prefer the pale yellow background of the blockquote over the gray background of the pre-formatted as well, although that may be a 'con' and not a 'pro' for some folks.

  • 1
    Code formatting is bad and should be banned. It doesn't belong on any sites that don't require coding.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 2:40
  • 2
    @Catija There are some situations where it's necessary because you can use it to write things that might otherwise be interpreted as markup, like `**this would be bolded**``. I'm not for banning it, but it should be discouraged as a blockquote replacement.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 13:13

In an answer to this question, I described my own practice thus:

My practise on ELU has evolved towards this (though I haven’t been altogether consistent):

  • Mark technical and foreign terms and ‘mentioned’ words or phrases in italics, as in your example
  • Mark literal quotations and longer constructions employed as examples in “double quotes”—this leaves it possible to mark the ‘mentioned’ terms in italics, as before
  • Mark allusions and non-standard, colloquial or ironic uses in ‘single quotes’
  • Mark rhetorical emphasis with bold or bold italics, depending on typographical context

Quotations, whatever the source, should in my opinion be treated as they are in scholarly works: enclosed in quotation marks within the body of the discourse, or blockquoted if longer; with ellipses explictly noted; and with the original formatting preserved to the extent that the markup/down here permits. I have no objection to bulleted or numbered lists, of any depth which promotes clarity and intelligibility.

I’m not confident, however, that these (or any other) practices should or can be universally enforced. It seems to me that our time is better spent on close attention to content than on meticulous formatting to some arbitrary standard.

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