How To Use Markdown For Blogging

Would you like to know how to use markdown for blogging on any device you own? Would you like to spend more time capturing ideas and less time futzing over formatting? Finally, would you like to be able to port your work to virtually any online publishing service? I use markdown to do all of these things. Read more to find out how you can too.

I am hardly what you would call a professional blogger. I am however, a professional who blogs. Every week I write a weekly newsletter for my growing franchise business. I have to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time and writing using markdown gives me flexibility and saves me time.

Begin with the end in mind

Let me explain the power of using markdown in your workflow by focusing on the end product. Most of the web hosted solutions I write for have their own custom WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. Unfortunately, almost none of these gracefully handles cutting and pasting from Word, or Pages, or whatever tool I am writing in. There is always some strange glitch. Also, because I often have to use a different browser like Chrome, or Safari, or FireFox, these editors do not always behave kindly toward me and my prose.

It is about dependability

In my experience, the most dependable way to get the text, with the formatting I want, into my target environment is to switch to source mode and to paste in raw HTML.

This seems to work every time. However, writing in raw HTML is a real pain, and when I try to export HTML from a word processor like Microsoft Word, or Apple’s Pages, I usually get something so complicated that is is nearly useless. Not to mention that I don’t have word on all my portable devices, but even while I have pages everywhere, moving files between iPhone and Mac, and iPad is hardly seamless (though iCloud promises to fix this).

It is about flexibility

That is where markdown comes in. With a very concise format, markdown lets me write in any text editor I can find, and export the results in a clean efficient HTML code that is ideal for posting into online web editors.

In short, markdown gives me flexible, portable formatting that is application and platform dependent.

This is probably why markdown is gaining so much popular support.

What is markdown?

Without going into a whole lot of gory detail, markdown is simply plain text with a few special conventions used to make formatting simple, easy, and quick.
What makes markdown special?
1. You can read markdown files just as they are and they should make sense and be easy to read.
2. Markdown can be converted into a whole bunch of formats easily.

These are the two main reasons I use markdown, and they make it very powerful. There is a third reason: images. Almost all blogs today require posting of images. Markdown does not make it easy to handle images, it makes it manageable.

Markdown Syntax

There are a number of great resources to explain markdown format and many of the markdown editors contain useful help files, but here are some simple examples:

Instead of typing:

You would type:

Instead of typing:

You would type:

Or

To create headings:, you would type:

Instead of

Markdown is almost as much a philosophy as it is a format. The idea is to leave the raw text, the source, readable. And in a pinch, you can just insert good old fashioned HTML if you have to.

Plain text means portability

There is now a slew of programs on Ios and android that support writing in markdown format.

My personal favorites are:

Elements AppByWord

However any program that can edit plain text can work. Usually these are called programmer’s editors such as TextMate and TextWrangler. I should point out that on the Mac I used Ulysses because it renders the markdown with its formatting while you write, but it also syncs with Daedalus through iCloud. Ulysses also supports grammar and spell checking even though nothing compares to the quality you get from MS Word on that front.

Markdown Means Simple HTML

When I am ready to put my writing online, I use one of several programs to render my markdown into simple, clean, easy to read HTML. Ulysses makes it trivial to copy the HTML to the clipboard, ByWord is nearly as easy (and with ByWord 2.0 you can now post directly to your blog – if you pay $4.99 for the in app purchase).  There are also Chrome plugins and many stand alone applications that will convert your content to HTML

Summary

I use markdown to capture my capture ideas as quickly and efficiently as possible. Markdown is not where I do heavy editing. It is where I start. That way I can capture on practically any device I own. From there I have a myriad of ways to convert my prose into simple HTML which is suitable for pasting into a WordPress blog or other client side javascript editor in the source view mode.

Check out the many tools that are popping up around markdown, I think you will be impressed.

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