I run a small job site and one of the big problems I'm trying to solve is to increase the quality of the formatting used in the job adverts.

As it turns out copy and paste is painfully common and often the spacing or other formatting elements (notably bullet points or numbered lists) are not parsed into HTML correctly.

I.e. a numbered list doesn't become an <ol></ol> when pasted in.

The editor I use (CKEditor), has all the options to allow these to be re-enabled, the problem is people don't take the time to use them.

I currently have a scrolling help box which changes for each field selected. On the free text fields it tells users to use paragraphs and bullet points, however this hasn't helped.

Possible Options (things I've been considering):

  • JS text parser which looks for structures similar to lists and converts them, i.e. multiple lines with incrementing numbers, o's at beginning
  • A JS parser which looks for lists and bullet points and if it finds none suggests using them with a popup
  • Highlighting/emphasising the formatting options when you select the text box

The problem with parsers is they usually add a performance delay. My worry with highlighting is people will continue to ignore it because it takes no actions and I already tell people to format better with the changing help box.

Has anyone tried to solve this problem before? What sort of things did you try? What has been effective?

2 Answers 2


Instead of a technological solution, why not employ a little psychology. Job posters want their listings to be seen, preferably near the top of any list which contains them. If you warn them that failure to properly format their posts (using the tools provided) will negatively effect their list placement, most users will comply. It isn't really necessary to actually enforce such a policy with technology. Just the warning should get you the user behavior which you desire. If on the other hand, you are technical enough to consider JS Text Parser, etc... why not actually follow through on the warning. Look for broken tags, untagged lists, and other syntactically detectable crimes and negatively modify the key value by which you sort posts on your main page.

  • I'd also not considered that. I already rank job posts by the amount of detail they provide (counting binary fields) so it wouldn't be a stretch to convince people. Maybe apply the occasional manual penalty. I'll probably end trying both and reporting back to see if I get any changes. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:44

I'm not sure what your web development skill level is but from a UX perspective this sort of flow could be appreciated:

  1. Provide a "Fix formatting issues" button
  2. User pastes text into textarea so simply display a friendly message box saying something like "Pasting content from another program such as Microsoft Word can prevent your post from looking it's best! Please press the Fix formatting issues button to clear up any potential issues which may prevent your post from attracting the best possible audience!"
  3. Upon clicking the button, change it to say "Processing", and eventually display a modal window with a readonly textarea and give the user the option to accept/cancel formatting changes
  4. If they accept then simply carry the contents of the readonly box into the CKeditor box and let them carry on
  5. At this point you can decide whether to leave the friendly message visible or hide it
  • I like the idea, although I worry that with a button it just wouldn't be used. I might try something similar with but with pasting in text as the trigger. Then maybe some sort of modal popup or hidden accordion which asks to keep or remove changes. (assuming of course I can write something good enough to fix the formatting) Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:41

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