-~- Your Yearly Airing Of The Grievances -~-

A lot of answers follow the template of:

Avoid X

Description of why X is bad

Do Y

Description of why Y is good and better than what OP is doing.

This is great. However, some answers go all out and instead do:

Pay Attention To ME

Some tiny words here.


Other tiny words.

The ginormous labels are really distracting. Would it be frowned upon to edit the header ones into just the bold ones?

Or, better, simply have the headers in answers all be the same size. We're writing code reviews here, not scholarly texts - I have yet to a problem solved by the header texts that wouldn't be adequately solved by simply having the bold.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It would be possible, I guess, with Stack Exchange involvement, to make # through ### (h1 through h3 in HTML) to all be displayed at the same size (by doing it at the site CSS level), although that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a header hierarchy to begin with... \$\endgroup\$
    – Phrancis
    Dec 23 '15 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Phrancis What purpose does the header hierarchy serve now? I like the display idea (added to question). \$\endgroup\$
    – Barry
    Dec 23 '15 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ The hierarchy serves more-or-less the same purpose as it does in other types of HTML documents, see Sections and Outlines of an HTML5 Document. Although, I'm not sure how well this is implemented by Stack Exchange, in theory that's how it should work \$\endgroup\$
    – Phrancis
    Dec 23 '15 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your example shows h1 headers. Are you against h3 too? \$\endgroup\$
    – janos
    Dec 23 '15 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @janos I really only see people using h1 in answers, but I think h3 is excessive too. It's just too much contrast against the actual important part of the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barry
    Dec 23 '15 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ If this formatting bothers you and you use Firefox, you can use an Add-on called Stylish to restyle websites to your liking. Personally, I like the large contrast. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cypher
    Dec 24 '15 at 18:28

I believe this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.

Personally I tend to use ### (h3 in HTML) for headers, but I am fine with other people choosing anything else.

This is something that should not be any "site policy" or "site recommendation", we have enough of those as it is.


I think it would be inappropriate to change headers into bold text.

For one thing, it's a trivial edit — if it were a suggested edit, would it really be worth +2 and bothering other users to review that change?

For another, changing semantic markup to non-semantic markup just to get the look you personally prefer is bad practice. If you have a complaint about the stylesheet, air it as a site design issue. Don't go around editing a large chunk of the site's existing posts.


Disclaimer: I use H3 headers all the time

I agree that gigantic headers don't look good. But we might disagree on where we draw the line on what is "gigantic".

As @200_success wrote in his answer, the important point is to use semantic markup. Strong markup is not for headers. We should use markup designed for headers.

But which semantic header should we use?

  • Clearly not H1 (prefixed with # or underlined with ===). H1 is designed for top-level headings. On a question's page the question title uses H1 markup.

  • Clearly not H2 (prefixed with ## or underlined with ---). H2 is for headings denoting sub-sections within an H1 block. On a question's page, H2 is used by the "Answers" and the "Your Answer" sections.

Next in line is H3 (prefixed with ###), which seems to be the smallest header markup rendered differently from normal text on Stack Exchange sites (as far as I know). As such, it's really the only semantic header that makes sense in answers.

I use H3 headers whenever it makes sense to split my answer to sections. I don't find it excessive at all, so obviously this is my recommendation. And as explained above, using H1 and H2 are inappropriate, obnoxious, and look really bad.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Looking through your answers, H3 is a ton better than H1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barry
    Dec 24 '15 at 15:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Disclaimer: I use H1 headers these days. Only because it's the fastest way to create headings: 1 char vs 3 for H3. This post has me convinced. :) Will adopt this for future answers, and thanks for the helpful explanation! \$\endgroup\$
    – h.j.k.
    Dec 25 '15 at 2:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd never thought of this before either. Will switch to H3 for any answers where I'm not using sub-sections. (I don't use sub-sections often, but sometimes I do.) ++ for semantic markdown. \$\endgroup\$
    – RubberDuck
    Dec 25 '15 at 21:36
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Considering this answer, why is H1 and H2 even possible to use for regular users in regular posts? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 25 '15 at 21:45
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @SimonForsbergMcFeely Request for elimination of h1/h2 markdown posted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brythan
    Dec 27 '15 at 5:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ When I use headers I usually stick to H3 for exactly this reason. Headers can be very useful if the review is split up into very specific parts. Bugs, naming, includes, whitespace, algorithm, alternative solutions, it's simply easier to read an answer if the advice is split up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mast Mod
    Dec 29 '15 at 13:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I actually didn't know that ### even existed, and I thought that # and ## were the same size. Now that I've read this, I'll try using ### from now on. \$\endgroup\$
    – JS1
    Dec 30 '15 at 12:28

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