Blog Oklahoma Podcast 015: Markdown

Here at Blog Oklahoma one of my goals is to help you improve your writing and blogging skills. One bit of advice I like to give is to do your writing outside of your blogging platform. Meaning not typing directly into your platform’s editor. Instead do your typing in a separate word processor such as Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Write, or Google Docs and then copy and paste your text into your blogging platform to publish.

One hang up some blogging writers have comes with its time to format your text, such as adding headings, bolding and italicizing, or creating bullet lists. Working in a word processor will let you do all that, but depending on your blogging platform some of that formatting doesn’t translate across when you copy and paste it.

If your blogging platform has what’s called a WYSIWYG editor, most of your formatting will work, but if your platform is strictly a text editor then all that formatting goes away. At that point you’ll need to do your formatting inside of your platform’s editor. Which is fine, but it will extend your publishing time a little. Or you’ll need to format your text into HTML, and then copy and paste that in.

As someone who uses HTML on a daily basis it's not really a big deal for me, but it is time consuming and it does make your text a bit cluttered with code when you go back and look at it again.

There is a hybrid approach when it comes to formatting text for publishing to your blog, and as a bonus it’ll speed up your writing, and it doesn’t clutter up your text with too much code like HTML. It’s called Markdown.

Many blogging platforms such as WordPress and Ghost already support markdown either natively or with a plugin. Many other web services like Reddit or Google+ use a form of markdown to allow formatting with their posts.

I’ll provide link in the show notes to a great article at Daring Fireball that describes markdown in detail. But to give you a broad overview. All of your formatting is done as simple text as you type.

Let’s say you want to do a level 1 heading. In your word processor you would have to type in your text, highlight it, and then select heading from a menu item or some keyboard shortcut. In HTML you would have to type in

text

. In markdown you would type in #your text# and then start a new line and you keep going. If you want to bold or italicize in HTML you have a few options (w/o brackets) B or STRONG or I or EM you get the idea. If I want to italicize I put * around the text or ** to bold.

So you can see by using this simpler form of formatting I can speed up your typing and still be able to read your text without the clutter of HTML. When you get the rest of markdown’s symbolism down, which isn’t complicated at all, you'll see the benefits right away.

Again some of your blogging platforms are markdown ready, copy and paste your text in, and you’re published. If your platform is not markdown ready, you can still paste in HTML. If you’re using a markdown editor such as Markpad (Markdownpad), which I really like, or StackEdit, which is an online tool that works with Google Docs, you do all your typing in markdown, and export as HTML.

In fact I used a combination Markdownpad and StackEdit to type up the show notes for this very episode, and I think I’m going to use markdown for the show notes from now on.

So there you have it. One more tool in your writing toolbox. Markdown.

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