It's a somewhat common habit at RPG.se to use bold sentences to make the appearance of a header for a section of text, rather than using our existing header formatting. This is probably because it's a common hack elsewhere on the Internet where heading formatting isn't available, and because the button in the editor for bold is more obvious than the button for a heading.
This habit causes problems though, and is so easily avoided.
The Internet in general has many visually-impaired users, and we're no exception — we know of a number of site members who have said they are visually impaired. Visually impaired users commonly use one or more of a variety of accessibility software to navigate a question and its answers, and to have the part of interest read aloud. The problem with bold sentences used to make fake headers is twofold:
- They aren't recognised as headings, so they can't be used for assisted navigation.
- They aren't read aloud as headings, making it harder to figure out what the text is supposed to mean when read aloud.
Fake headers are easily fixed. When you want to make a header, there are three ways to create one:
Click the Heading editor button:
Select the heading text and type ctrlh.
Manually type the Markdown code for a header, which is either an underline made from dashes or equal signs, or one to three hash marks in front of or surrounding it (“or”, because the trailing ones are optional).
The exact symbol used defines the logical level (and visual size) of the resulting heading:
# Level 1 heading # ## Level 2 heading ## ### Level 3 heading ### ### No hashes at the end is also OK for any heading level Level 1 heading =============== Level 2 heading ---------------
If you have existing fake headings, the easiest fix is to edit the post and replace the
** around the fake headings with
It's not just for human accessibility
This isn't just a matter of accessibility to visually-impaired humans either, it's a matter of accessibility to computers in general. The more we use correct formatting, the more the meaning and structure of the contents is reflected in the HTML of the post. This makes for more useful material for future uses that we might not yet have imagined.
And in the meantime, making our site less annoying to use for visually-impaired members, by avoiding easily-avoided formatting errors, is worthwhile all by itself.
What about bolding the leading sentence, thesis statement, or question summary?
That's fine! That's not a header, that's just a sentence being emphasised due to its importance in the answer, question, or paragraph. That's what our bold formatting is for. In fact, marking it as bold will correctly indicate that it's not supposed to be understood as a section header, improving meaning and accessibility. Using section heading formatting is only recommended for things that are actually section headings.