Markdown for Bloggers


Coding is the new literacy

by C.K. MacLeod

Writing in markdown is an efficient way to write blog posts. In fact, it will forever change the way you blog.

So, what is markdown? It's a coding language like HTML, only much, much simpler, and you don't have to be tech savvy to learn it. It takes about 10 minutes to learn, if that.

Why I Use Markdown

Here's why I use markdown:

  • Markdown is easy to learn.
  • I don't have to fuss with the formatting features of a word processor when I write, which means I won't introduce wonky formatting into my writing when it comes time to publish a post.
  • I can copy and paste my writing to and from Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, a text editor, Blogger, WordPress, etc. and the formatting codes will travel with it.
  • Markdown can convert to HTML, so if you've never been able to figure out how to write in HTML, you may not need to (see below).
  • It makes my blog writing and publishing process more efficient.

What does it look like?

Here's what markdown looks like in action:

Text written in markdown is on the left; the formatted version is on the right

The text in the left pane is written in markdown. It kind of looks like plain text, right? That's because it is. It's pretty much what your writing would like if you only used your keyboard and didn't click on any of the fancy formatting buttons in your word processor.

The text on the the right is what the published product will look like. Pretty, right? This particular markdown editor took the codes from the text on the left and converted it to formatted text. Do you see the codes? No? Read on...

Commonly Used Markdown Codes

Here are the markdown codes I use the most in my writing (I've left this list in plain text so that you can copy and paste it into Scrivener. if you like):

#Heading 1
##Heading 2
###Heading 3



Horizontal rule

[Tech Tools for Writers](hyperlink) - no space between square brackets and parentheses

![alt text: description of image for people with visual impairments](image link)

Block quote/pull quote
>first line of paragraph

Ordered list
1. first list item
2. second list item
3. thirdlist item

Unordered list
- list item
- list item
- list item
Can also use * instead of -

Soft break (poetry)
Line is followed by two spaces
First line [space, space]
Second line [space, space]

em dash: Alt+ 0151
en dash: Alt + 0150
hyphen -

Go back to the image above. Do you see the markdown codes now? Allow me to highlight some of them for you:

Markdown sample
The markdown syntax in this sample is highlighted in yellow.

If you don't find what you're looking for on my markdown list, check out this markdown cheat sheet. Print it and stick it next to your computer.

Or, if you write your blog posts in Scrivener like I do, you can copy and paste my list of markdown codes into the Project Notes menu in Scrivener's Inspector, where it'll always be available when you need it.

Markdown in Scrivener's Project Notes
Markdown in Scrivener's Project Notes

Try This

If you'd like to learn markdown, but you're not convinced that it's easy, try this guided, step-by-step interactive tutorial. I dare you to say it's hard after trying this tutorial.

If you'd like to see markdown transform to polished text right before your eyes, try John Combe's* free markdown editor. Use my markdown "cheat sheet" above and write something in the left pane. Watch your markdown text turn to beautifully formatted text.

In my next post, I'll explain how I use markdown for blogging on WordPress, and I'll share my writing and publishing process with you.

*I learned about the John Combe markdown editor from Joseph Michael in his Learn Scrivener Fast course.

Image by Michael Pollak

2 thoughts on “Markdown for Bloggers”

  1. Great post. I use markdown, too, but I've had to disable my WordPress plugin, Markdown Quicktags, because it is incompatible with the new Worpress version. Are you using Jetpack's plugin or something else?

    1. Nina, I use Markdown QuickTags, but I haven't upgraded to WordPress 4.0 (and it sounds like I might not want to yet—thanks for the heads-up).

      You could try the WP-Markdown plugin, and you could also try the feature that comes with Jetpack—Markdown Extra—though I haven't tried it myself.

      There are other ways to use Markdown for blogging if you don't have a plug-in, and I'm working on a post that addresses that. It involves more steps, but it's good back-up option.

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