Recently, I started experiencing unexpected behavior when editing org-mode files.

Suppose I have two headings, with _ indicating the cursor position.

* Heading
** Subheading

I want to insert a new subheading before the existing one. So I now press * to get a second asterisk. But I don't get a second *. Instead, one of the asterisks from the existing subheading on the line below disappears! Then I press * again, and now the asterisk reappears! Now I press * for a third time, and I finally get the second asterisk on the new heading that I want to insert. So I press space to give it a title, only to find that I now have four asterisks! Like this:

* Heading
**** _ 
** Subheading

I find this behavior extremely annoying and have no idea how it is supposed to be helpful or what purpose it serves. I don't think I changed anything in my setup, so it might have been enabled by an update. I want to turn it off, but I can't find the relevant variable (meaning I don't even know what to search for). Does anyone know how to turn this "feature" off?

  • Does it happen if you start with emacs -q? If not, there is something in your init file causing this: bisect it to figure out what's doing it. FWIW, I cannot reproduce it in Org mode 9.4.4.
    – NickD
    Mar 21, 2021 at 18:11

1 Answer 1



I found this is a known bug in org-mode. The problem is setting org-hide-emphasis-markers to t. Once it's set back to nil (the default), the problem goes away. It is because org tries to hide the strong emphasis marker, **.

I reported my finding to the org mailing list.

  • Yes, you are right.
    – NickD
    Mar 22, 2021 at 1:29

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