So, in chat and various comments/discussion I have had to learn a lot as a non-programmer just to navigate certain things. For example, right now I can use the B above the box to make words bold. I did not realize I could use the same ** set-up everywhere - even in comments etc. until Torben explained. I also had Meg Coates use IKR? and had to ask her. I've seen OP and figured that one out etc.

This led me to ask if there could be a quick start guide that has commonly used abbreviations explained as well as (or a separate) "how to" guide for new-bies that are not already from the SE community or programming community. It seems that it may be a useful resource and friendly thing to do for new community members (assuming they make use of it).

Update: Some tips have been added. Upvote those that are useful! You can also add more tips, and edit the existing ones to improve them.


6 Answers 6


Text formatting in comments

Comments don't have a formatting toolbar, but they accept many of the same formatting codes.

Additional tricks:

  • use the @ character to "ping" a user, e.g. @JohnDoe. He will get a notification in the top of the window that he has been mentioned. Only the first @mention takes effect, so @JohnDoe @JaneDoe will only notify John but not Jane.
  • hyperlinks are automatically clickable; don't write HTML <A HREF....
  • make pretty hyperlinks like this: [display text](http://hyperlink.com)
  • 1
    note that contacting a user only works when done somewhere they've been active - eg they asked, answered, edited, or commented on the question. You can't ping any old body that way
    – Chrys
    Mar 17, 2013 at 15:32

Check your notifications

The StackExchange logo in the top left is a notification menu. If there are no notifications, you'll see the StackExchange icon. If there are new notifications for you, there is a red counter indicating how many messages you have.

You are notified about these things:

  • new answers to your questions
  • new comments to your questions and answers
  • someone @mentioned you in a comment or in the chat
  • edits to your posts.

This notification menu is global - it spans all the Q&A sites in the StackExchange network.


Glossary and Site Jargon
In alphabetical order, please.

See also the answer about common abbreviations.

Want something explained? Just add the text and let the community fill out the rest!

  • Answer = a post in response to a question. Make sure you answer the question! This is not a forum; "me too" posts are not considered answers and are often downvoted and deleted.
  • Beta = every StackExchange site needs to qualify according to certain metrics. When the metrics are met, the site may graduate (note that meeting the metrics does not guarantee immediate graduation). Before that, it remains in beta. This has no impact on the site content. The major difference is that a graduated site gets a custom graphic design, and the privileges require more reputation.
  • Bounty = you can choose to sacrifice some of your hard-earned reputation points to get more attention to your question. The author of the best answer wins the reputation points you offered. Read more about bounties.
  • Chat = the Parenting Chat room is a powerful communication tool. Users can "talk" without having to be online at the same time! The chat runs in the browser and requires no special software to be installed.
  • Comment = users can comment on questions and answers to ask for clarification. Don't use it for extended back-and-forth chats! Use the chat instead. Comments can be upvoted but not downvoted; no reputation is earned for comment upvotes.
  • Downvote = give or receive a negative score for content that is not useful or of poor quality. Don't downvote just because you disagree! You can vote on all questions and answers except your own.
  • Edit = A user can edit any question and answer to improve it; it's highly encouraged whenever needed. Every change is tracked as a revision.
  • Elections = A routine to elect moderators for graduated sites. These occur when the site graduates, and whenever traffic demands indicate that additional moderators are required.
  • Flag = every question/answer/comment/chat message can be flagged to let the moderators know that it requires attention. It could be spam, not helpful, offensive, off-topic, etc. Moderators dismiss flags as they handle them.
  • Meta = A website about the website. Actual parenting topics are posted on the main site while discussions about the main site take place on the meta site.
  • Moderators = trusted volunteers that help new users and keep the site attractive. They have access to everything and more. Moderators are elected once the site has graduated (but pro tem moderators are appointed by StackExchange while the site is still in beta).
  • OP = original poster; the person who wrote the question at the top of the page. Can also indicate "original post".
  • Question = a post that starts a new "thread" about a new topic. Make sure you know how to ask a good question!
  • Reputation = You earn points by getting upvotes for helpful contributions, and you lose points by getting downvotes for poor contributions. With increasing reputation, you earn privileges to more actions on the site, thus empowering good contributors. Apart from that, points are purely for fun and friendly competition -- they are not redeemable for anything in the real world.
  • Review = A tool available to users with sufficient reputation. The review queues contain posts that possibly need further action from the community, like improvement, closure or deletion. By presenting those posts for peer-review, the system aims for higher quality content.
  • Revision = All edits to questions and answers are tracked. Each change gets a "version number" so you can always see how the post looked before a given edit.
  • Rollback = If a user feels a revision to a post lowers the quality/obscures the question, the user can choose to activate a previous version of the post.
  • Tags = A tag is a keyword or label that categorizes your question with other, similar questions. This is particularly useful when searching to narrow your scope and get better results. You can also click any tag to see a list of questions that have that tag. A question may have several tags, and one or more age tags are often used.
  • Upvote = give or receive points for helpful content. You can vote on questions and on answers that aren't your own. You can also upvote comments that you feel are a nice addition, question for clarification or just offer a sense of humor. Upvotes on comments will not impact reputation. You cannot downvote a comment.
  • 1
    I agree and wonder whether a similar list (but not the same list) for texting abb. we be useful to many or just too much. It is not as though it is hard to just ask the person that typed it in the first place. Nov 28, 2012 at 20:40
  • @smillig: ikr was only included because it was specifically mentioned. I'd prefer to keep this list specific to Stack Exchange terms. We could have a separate answer post about general abbreviations, which basically links to acronymfinder.com because it would be futile to actually write the list. Nov 29, 2012 at 10:10

Text formatting in posts

In posts (questions and answers) there is a toolbar you can use. When you click the toolbar buttons, you'll notice that "markup code" is inserted in your post.

You can also type these formatting characters directly, so if you know that italic needs single asterisks, just type them like normal characters. Many HTML codes are also allowed, if you're so inclined.

The toolbar also has a ? button that reveals some help, plus a link to advanced help which is a very detailed listing of all possible formatting available -- but for normal use, the toolbar is all you need.

Headings are made by beginning the line with between one and three # characters.

Use HTML codes for other font sizes. Rarely needed!

Tip: click edit on another user's post to see how he formatted it!

Keyboard shortcuts

Ctrl+B = bold uses double asterisks
Ctrl+I = italic uses single asterisks
Ctrl+L = hyperlink uses brackets
Ctrl+K = preformatted uses single backticks
Ctrl+O = ordered list item (numbered) begins with 1. and will auto-increment for you. There must be a blank line before the list.
Ctrl+U = unordered list item (bullets) begins with a hyphen. There must be a blank line before the list.


Abbreviations and acronyms

The Internet is full of acronyms like IMHO (in my honest opinion) and many, many more. It would be futile to list them all here, but you can look up acronyms here: http://www.acronymfinder.com/



The Parenting Chat room is a powerful communication tool. Users can "talk" without having to be online at the same time! The chat runs in the browser and requires no special software to be installed.

If you would like to Invite someone to chat with you about a particular question where comments are getting long. Simply type [chat] in the comments using brackets. This will automatically link to the parenting chat room.

The text box in the chat doesn't have a formatting toolbar, but it does accept many of the same formatting codes.


  • use the @ character to "ping" a user, e.g. @JohnDoe. He will get a notification that he has been mentioned.
  • hyperlinks are automatically clickable; don't write HTML <A HREF....
  • make pretty hyperlinks like this: [display text](http://hyperlink.com)
  • insert a hyperlink all by itself to "one-box" it. Works well with image URLs, StackExchange links, Amazon links, and several more. Try it!
  • hit the up arrow to revise your last chat message. Great for fixing typos!
  • point to a chat message to see the responses highlighted below it. If the message is also a response, the preceding message will also be highlighted above it.

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