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I am trying to post a quote as part of a question. The quote includes a portion of a sentence that is underlined and I can't see how to do that here. It isn't under Styling/Headers, and I've tried [u]underline[/u] and that also didn't work. What is the formatting for underline here? Thanks

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    To include a quote in a question, use the blockquote mechanism, ie prefix each line with a >. There is no provision for underlining in StackExchange. Unicode contains some pre-underlined characters, so you can use those, and there are even online services that let you type a text and they will replace all the characters with their underlined counterparts, where they exist, so you could find one of those and use it to create texts to be pasted here. But he result is usually very unpleasant-looking. Better to stick with blockquotes. Also this question is about the site, so belongs on [Meta].
    – Dan Bron
    May 20, 2017 at 10:31
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    By the way: This is not a forum.
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 21, 2017 at 6:37
  • Since posts/answers are formatted with Markdown, ordinarily <u>underlined text</u> would work—but that’s disallowed, I guess for the reasons indicated in Andrew Leach’s answer.
    – Jon Purdy
    May 28, 2017 at 22:39

2 Answers 2

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Underlining is not supported in user posts.

One reason is that underlining in web pages is customarily used for links, and your text would [probably] not be a link. The other reason is that the designers don't like it: underlining isn't used in any Stack Exchange site, as far as I am aware — even for links.

Normally, it's acceptable to find some other form of emphasis. If underlining is only used to draw attention to a few words, then bold or italic will do just as well. However, there are conventions there too: italic is used for mentions of a word, and bold is preferred for emphasis.

Dan Bron has already commented about using the > character as a prefix for a quoted paragraph. Within the quote, you can use any of the available forms of emphasis. But underlining is not one of them.

Note: many user agents/operating systems can have problems with special Unicode characters such as those which include or combine to make an underline, or provide small capitals or whatever. Please don't use them. For example, although ̲a appears fine in a monospaced font, it probably doesn't look right in Georgia as used for the body text in this site: ̲a. It certainly doesn't look right in my browser — this is what I see:

Screenshot of combining characters

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  • Of course, since this post, underlining has appeared for links. But the underlying reason for not allowing plain underlining still holds: it's [now] reserved for links.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:16
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Workaround

Underlining is in enough demand that other users have found workarounds, such as the use of combining character U+0332 described here at Meta.

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    Don't do this! It interferes with the assistive technology that some people need to use in order to use the site (e.g. screen readers, text to speech, translators, dictionaries).
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 30 at 2:14
  • @Laurel — How is this any different from the use of other combining characters, such as diacritics? Honest question. Apr 30 at 2:18
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    Because those are expected to be in the word. For example both "cafe" and "café" bring up the same dictionary entry for me (in NOAD via iOS).
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 30 at 2:28
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    @Laurel, I'm curious, your comment to me appears with é as a precomposed glyph, i.e. as single code-point U+00E9, and not as e + combining acute U+0301. Combining characters such as the combining acute U+0301, or the combining underline U+0332, are separate glyphs that are rendered within the same on-screen space as the preceding character. I have no idea what "NOAD" is, I'm afraid, so I cannot evaluate whether "cafe" (plain ASCII) and "c̲a̲f̲e̲" (ASCII + combining underline) return the same results. I can confirm that googling for "c̲a̲f̲e̲" returns results for "cafe" as well. Apr 30 at 4:10
  • Some languages like Navajo apply multiple diacritics per letter, such as ą́ (small a with ogonek U+0105 + combining acute U+0301), used to represent a nasal a with high tone. The use of separate combining diacritics is (currently) the only way to compose these glyphs, since there are no dedicated single-glyph Unicode entries for these. Depending on your font settings and browser, this ą́ might appear as a proper single character, or as a bit of a mess with the diacritic not properly over the letter. In my Firefox v91.8.0esr, the edit box is correct, but not the rendered comment Apr 30 at 4:15
  • From what I've read about Unicode equivalence and normalization, I believe that the combining underline is effectively treated as optional and functionally equivalent to the preceding glyph in isolation. So strings like "c̲a̲f̲e̲", consisting of c + U+0332 + a + U+0332 etc., should be treated as functionally equivalent to "cafe" (just the ASCII string). By my current understanding, any assistive technology that is Unicode-compliant should not be negatively impacted by this workaround for underlining. Apr 30 at 4:24
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    Your underlining interferes with my iOS dictionary (NOAD = New Oxford American Dictionary), the iOS translation option, and Google translate. Those are just the applications I checked.
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 30 at 13:38
  • @Laurel, very interesting. My sense is that all of this additional info should be rolled up into the answer post. These findings also appear to bolster the case for Stack Exchange supporting proper CSS underlining, which has no such usability impact on text processing, as determined users will use this U+0332 character or some other workaround. May 2 at 18:27

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