SE Markdown supports both underscores and asterisks for marking italics and bold:

_foo_ __foo__ *foo* **foo**

foo foo foo foo

However, the SE editor (both in browsers and apps) only recognises (and uses) asterisks. If you select an underscore-delimited italic or bold word, and use the keyboard shortcuts or the buttons on the top to change that formatting, it won't work. The editor will add and remove asterisks.

This makes editing posts that use (and overuse) underscores for formatting annoying.

  • 8
    Maybe we should see if it's possible to add the ability to account for underscores as well. Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 10:57
  • @Zacharee1 probably, yes - but the presence of underscores indicates that it was manually typed in, instead of using the editor's features. In that case, they could manually type in *, too I suppose. And the editor would pick one of underscores or asterisks when adding new formatting, which I bet would be the current *.
    – muru
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 12:35
  • 11
    people actually use the formatting buttons? News to me.
    – Seth
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 19:05
  • @Seth only way on mobile - sometimes you have to edit from mobile browsers instead of the app (like when editing from a specific revision)
    – muru
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 19:07
  • 2
    Expecting humans to see this post and remember to follow the guideline might be a bit optimistic. Automation is more likely to produce the results you want. Either by getting the editor to support _s, or converting the relevant _s to *s when the text is submitted or opened for editing. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 8:16
  • Why not just type manually when editing posts? Are the keyboard shortcuts really so crucial? (Note: I actually use asterisks myself—manually typed—but if, for instance, I were very used to the abomination of JIRA markdown, I would probably use underscores since I would be used to them.)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 10:41
  • @Wildcard because somebody didn't use the shortcuts doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to. I personally just copy to Vim and nuke every _ in the post.
    – muru
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 10:48

1 Answer 1



  1. If it is supported somewhere, it should be supported everywhere. (Or nowhere but I think no one is going to convert all existing posts.) So I would rather ask for adding the support to “SE editor” (or the “SE formatting bar” if I understand the term correctly).

  2. There is a hint frame How to Format on the right side of the editing field, at least in the desktop view. It currently advises to use the syntax:

    _italic_ or **bold**
  3. I intuitively used underscore when writing first part of this answer. It is directly available on my keyboard (Czech) while I’d have to use Alt Gr or similar extensions for asterisk. Moreover, these extensions vary across the platforms I use.

  4. Finally, this is a wrong place to discuss it. Ask Ubuntu is not special among other SE sites in this way, so this topic should go to https://meta.stackexchange.com/.

  • SE = Stack Exchange.
    – muru
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 14:15
  • @muru I know the abbreviation. So you mean the formatting bar above the <textarea> on SE pages and the scripts supporting it? I apologize that I could not decipher it yesterday, I was confused by the note “browsers and apps” and considered the “SE editor” to be something more independent and sophisticated. Anyway, I’ve just edited my answer to contain more thoughts.
    – Melebius
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 7:37
  • Instead of using Alt Gr, could you use a shortcut like Ctrl + B (for bold) or Ctrl + I for Italics? It definitely works on my Keyboard/Editor. They're kind of universal shortcuts for most editors. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 8:46
  • @ThatGuy Thanks for suggestion. However, these shortcuts do not work in the comment field and when editing present formatting.
    – Melebius
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 13:58

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