Whether blogging is the heart & soul of your business or just another channel through which you communicate to your audiences, you know it is a great way to keep your community & email list engaged.
But as with anything you do, there’re ways of making the process more time-efficient, less frustrating.
Now, you may have some not-so-fun memories of times when you have wrestled with formatting a blog post in the platform’s WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”) editor to get it to look just right. Maybe you are the type who spends hours writing HTML to reach the perfect formatting, only to find there is a quotation mark that is throwing everything off.
What is Markdown?
According to John Gruber, “Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown lets you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML
Markdown is a formatting language that defines how to style the text (as a headline, italicized text, bulleted list, etc.). And it works in blog platforms, as well as other productivity apps such asToDo, Evernote, and even our email newsletter app, Curate.
Often, bloggers have 2 options for creating rich text on the web: either writing the actual styled HTML, using a WYSIWYG editor. While writing HTML itself is possible, it requires a detailed knowledge of how to program a web page. While most blogging platforms feature WYSIWYG editors to make rich web text content, they can be frustrating, time consuming & error-prone.
But with Markdown, you gain an easier to way to write & read your posts. And best of all? Anyone could do it.
Markdown makes it possible to combine a variety of rich text in your post, like code blocks, headlines, blockquotes, lists, horizontal rules, images, links, and more. Here are a few ways you could use Markdown:
To define a headline, begin the line with a # sign:
# Headline Text
To italicize text, surround it with asterisks, like:
To bold text, surround it with 2 asterisks on each side:
You could also designate hyperlinks in your text. Here is how you would write it in Markdown.
And here is what it would look like when you have published your blog post.
Do note that the visual styling may vary across different blogging platforms & apps, so ensure to do your research to discover what Markdown is improved and how it’ll display.
While some tools can support Markdown by default, others require a plugin. In WordPress, for instance, WP-Markdown is a popular plugin for supporting posts written in Markdown. And it is super simple to use.
All you should do is write your content in Markdown, and click “Save.” Behind the scenes, WP-Markdown will suggest that you have formatted your text with Markdown, will automatically translate it to the proper HTML according to your theme.
How it supports the blogging experience
Any process/skill that brings efficiency to a task is a good thing. When you use Markdown, you will find:
It is faster to write posts
Once you get the hang of how Markdown works, you will be able to write richly formatted blog posts faster.
As shown in the examples above, it is less complicated than writing HTML code. It is also much faster than using a WYSIWYG editor. As a writer, you know that any time spent notworking on your blog post is time wasted. That combines having to move your hand to your mouse to click a button in a WYSIWYG editor to do something like add bold treatment/create a bulleted list. When you write in Markdown, it speeds up the process since you could add styles directly to your content.
It is easier to read than HTML
If you have ever written rich blog content directly in HTML/tried to review the HTML generated by a WYSIWYG editor, you know how hard it could be to understand how the HTML code defines the styling for the text:
<h1 style=”line-height: 1.375em;”>Headline 1</h1><h2 style=”line-height: 1.375em;”>Headline 2</h2><p style=”line-height: 1.5em;”><em>Italicized Text</em></p><blockquote><p style=”line-height: 1.5em;”>Block quote</p></blockquote>”
Since Markdown is extremely simple, it is a lot easier to read:
# Headline 1
## Headline 2
> Block quote
Here, you could read a post written in Markdown & understand how it’ll display when published.
It supports flexibility
The best things about writing blog posts in Markdown is the flexibility it supports the way it appears. If you were to change WordPress themes/move to another blogging platform, for example, you would not have to worry about the formatting not carrying over.
With Markdown, it will ensure that the rich text in your blog is maintained & represented in the right format.
For instance, the following headline is written in Markdown:
#Creating Effective IOS New User Experiences
Here is how it looks within this AWeber blog:
Creating Effective IOS New User Experiences
Let’s take a look at what this text would look like if it were migrated to AWeber’s Engineering Blog, which has its own look & feel.
As you could see, the same headline displays correctly for every blog’s theme.
It can be used in tools beyond your blog
Once you become comfortable with Markdown, you will find yourself trying it everywhere. Need a bulleted list of your shopping list? You could use Markdown.
Included in the long list of apps that improve Markdown is our mobile app Curate, which lets users to quickly create and send email newsletters from a smartphone. By using Markdown, you could format rich text, such as bold headlines, within the app.
Here is an example Markdown at work in Curate: