Re: indicating the use of text formatting in ASCII text

Subject: Re: indicating the use of text formatting in ASCII text
From: "Simon G. Trask" <simon -at- simbiosis -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 18:25:48 +0100

At 6:35 am -0700 29/5/01, Keith Cronin wrote:

Is there some universally accepted way of indicating text formatting when
writing in a plain-text setting (such as ASCII)?

I see many of you adding _emphasis_ to your posts with *this* sort of
psuedo-tagging, but I don't know if this is merely chat-room tradition or
based on some formal methodology. I'm looking for ways to indicate
italics, bold, and underlining.

(HTML could work, but I think _this_ style would be more succinct and less
distracting than a bunch of <I> annoying</I> tags...)

Setext is a simple, neat markup language that works along the lines you indicate (see for instance for further information). However, it was overtaken by HTML back in the nineties, and rather fell by the wayside. It has lingered in the Mac world, though, largely because the TidBITS Mac newsletter still uses it; there's even now a reader available for Mac OS X, called SetextView (

While it may be lightweight next to HTML, setext markup is readily understandable and its disruption of the text when viewed in non-interpreted/raw form is minimal to non-existent.

Simon G .Trask


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