What the heck is Markdown, anyway?

Making sense of the internet's favourite language.

Have you ever had to go back and format a long online article or post once you’ve written it? It can be a massive hassle. Polishing each sentence as you go isn’t any easier. Not only are you more prone to error, it can derail your train of thought. (Also, if you’ve never bothered to format your text, please do everyone a favour and read on.)

Markdown was created by John Gruber in 2004 for web writers to easily format their work. With a few extra punctuation characters (like hashtags, slashes, underscores, asterisks), writers can properly format their text, adding headers, styled text, tables, block quotes, and more.

The result is very readable text that is instantly publishable online in the format you intended. Another great thing about using Markdown is writers can easily convert to formats such as plain text, rich text or HTML—another headache saved.

Ulysses' clever keyboard lets you add formatting in a tap.

Don’t get intimidated; Markdown’s syntax is actually really easy to pick up. It only requires the user to learn a few punctuation characters, which are inserted before content that needs formatting. For instance, “#” sets the subsequent content to header level 1. Since only a few punctuation marks are involved, the syntax is easy to pick up.

Bear's got plenty of colourful themes to choose from.

After learning some Markdown, you’ll need to find the right tool to use it. There are many finely-crafted Markdown applications for iOS and macOS. While each has its strong points, they all provide a clean interface, detailed manuals and an easy way to format your text, worry-free.

Whether you’re writing an article, taking notes or developing a thesis, Markdown is a great tool to have under your belt. Of course, a tool is only as good as the one who uses it, so keep practising!

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