Markdown, created by John Gruber, is a plain-text syntax and a software tool that converts plain text to HTML. Of course, it’s also simple for other tools to convert text in Markdown’s syntax to other formats such as Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF.
Markdown is intended to be as easy-to-read and easy-to-write as is feasible. -John Gruber
Basic characters denote format such as surrounding text with asterisks for emphasis or pound signs (#) leading a header. The symbols often look like what one would expect, or similar in usage within email, making them easy to remember and the syntax easy to read.
I’ve been writing my blog posts in Markdown syntax, but I’ve also begun writing short stories and novels in Markdown as well using a distraction-free editor. This allows me to focus on writing and later let software help me prepare for proper formatted output.
Multiple output targets
The stories I write may end up in a variety of formats including printed page, epub, or HTML. Copy-pasting a story from Word to Wordpress often works well, but occasionally turns up ugly. Smashwords is rigid about formatting to ensure best results. The text within a word processor document comes with meta-data and hidden junk the author may not be aware of.
Writing in plain text improves efficiency by only formatting once for each target. Automation improves efficiency. Let a program convert Markdown syntax to desired presentation formats including HTML, Word, PDF, or epub.
Writing without distraction
Before when I wrote fiction in a word processor I turned off all the automated alerts. The underlined text suddenly appearing or auto-correction breaks concentration. Word processors offer cascading menus of options for layout and presentation. Toolbars consume space.
Writing is about getting the words down, not how the words look. Simple, clutter-free editors allow the writer to focus. Just write and work anywhere on a desktop or a tablet. Writing with Markdown syntax allows the option for quickly indicating headers, emphasis, or more by typing without interruption.
Markdown syntax example
Below is the first half of this page written in Markdown syntax: