When I write emails I try to keep them as short as possible. Having said this, to prevent a protracted back and forth exchange I still think it is important to give all relevant context. In some cases I break my email into short sections with headings, however generally I just bold the key question/s. Is it polite or useful to bold questions posed in emails or could it be seen as rude or demanding?
Bolding is unnecessary. There are better ways than bolding to highlight a question. I very frequently write emails with questions where the question is a bullet item.
So for example:
I am working on answering a question at Stack Exchange and have a few questions. Was hoping you can help me with them.
Should I upvote this answer?
Should I use bold for questions?
This highlights the questions in a way which is far better than bolding as it has none of the "LISTEN TO ME NOW" implications. It also flows better, too.
If you have vital questions to ask, the best thing you can do is to just put them at the top of the email.
This does 2 things:
- Gets to the point for the readers who already know the context
- Keeps readers focused on what you need from them if your email goes on to elaborate.
However, you really should consider keeping emails short, especially if they require some action from the recipient. When I say short, I literally mean 2, 3, 4, 5 sentences. Going beyond that increasingly risks losing the attention and interest of the reader. An exception would be an email to a short list of engaged participants where you are responding to someone's inquiry for specific information.
Things such as using bold text, styling, or html formatting is really dependent on the context. You just have to use good judgement as with any form of writing. If you're using bold, it should be for a good reason and your prose should make it clear that you aren't being rude. I ALWAYS use HTML, because I mix normal sentences with things like code or serial numbers, sometimes tables, sometimes plots, or pictures.
If you were to bold your questions to me the way you bold them in your post, I'd be looking for you and give you a piece of my mind.
It's one thing to be asking questions, but the bolding creates the unpleasant perception that you are grabbing me by the lapels and asking the question. And sometimes, that you are getting in my face and asking the question. You will really stand out in my mind, because no one that I know ever bolds anything to me. even in the most urgent case. If the case is really urgent, they'll plant themselves right in front of me and tell me to my face - they won't be sitting down at their desk and wondering what to put in their email to me. Or if they are not in the office, they will be calling my line and let my management know that they are looking for me.
Refrain as much as possible from bolding - the question mark "?" is more than adequate in most cases.
What nobody mentioned, but is really important, is your mail subject line. Put the question there in a way that the reader can already think about the answer before even opening the mail.
Subject: Should I use bold in mails?
Body: Hi ... Nobody really cares what you write here :p but you can explain the details, why you are asking and what exactly you mean with bold, ...
If the subject line is well chosen, you could most of the time even leave the body empty, unless of course you talk to customers and need to be polite. So you really don't need to use bold. (did it help that I made it bold?)
This is an opinion case question, here are some possible answers. And the question also requires information like what sort of email you send and to whom you send, What kind of reply is most probable ..etc.
In a general case, when you are sending an email and you are segmenting and bolding some parts of it means that you have taken much care when writing the mail. And it is definitely useful to the reader because it makes the email easy to understand, especially in cases where the mail is so long like you have to fragment it.
Politeness is mostly an opinion based judgement.
In some cases, by bolding a question the reader finds it easy and he/she could think that you are willing to take care of some hassles. So, reader may think the mail format is polite.
In some cases when you are asking a question, you bolding it means that you are deliberate about the question. Which could make someone feel uncomfortable because receiver may feel you are forcing the receiver to choose one among set of answers.
In some cases when you bold the question and you do with a relatively unimportant question, the receiver may think you are not that much bold in you field.
If the receiver answers another unbolded question in the mail not the bolded one and finally you find out receiver didn't answer the intentionally bolded question which demands an answer, you will have to ask her again to answer that bolded question. You will have to draw her/his attention to that question, but not the same way as you do it when the question was not bolded.
In general communication mails where the politeness of the sender is disregarded the preferred way is bolding and segmenting. Because that makes it easy to read.
Again, to be fair this is opinion based answer and requires more information from @user to answer.