asterisks as bold or italic? (another push)

Timothy Binder lists at
Tue Mar 30 15:45:47 EST 2004

On Mar 30, 2004, at 3:17 PM, european bob wrote:

> As does But, we're confusing semantic and presentation
> in the above.

But I think that existing practices are important. If you have to 
change gears only when working with Markdown, than it's arguably bad 
user interface, especially if it's counterintuitive, which is the crux 
of the argument.

> Em is emphasis, strong is more emphasis. On that basis, *strong* and
> **stronger** makes lots of sense. How they get rendered is really a CSS
> issue; ** looks stronger than * and <strong> is stronger than <em>.

I agree that ** is stronger than *.
But * is stronger than _, as well.

Italics are a more subtle form of emphasis than boldface. This is 
probably why there was the initial correspondence of <em>:<i> and 
<strong>:<b>. I would argue that it continues to hold in most cases and 
is broken only when someone wants to be "edgy" in their design.

> The question is more really whether or not _{1,2} should be an synonym
> for emphasis. I have to say, it doesn't really look like emphasis to 
> me,
> it looks like underline. It definitely doesn't look like italics. But, 
> I
> don't totally see that having it as a synonym is necessarily a bad 
> thing
> if you accept the paragraph above.

It does look like an underline -- which *is* a method of emphasis. 
(Items are underlined for emphasis all the time. However, on the web, a 
different semantic meaning has been adopted -- that of a hyperlink.) 
I'm suggesting that *asterisk* is stronger than _underline_. (Then 
using the double character to escape is also consistent with backticks 

But my main point is that underlining has been synonymous with italics 
since the days of the typewriter. (See any style guide on using titles. 
Ones that appear in italics in print are underlined on a typewriter -- 
the original plain text entry system.) To break this link is 


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