The Markdown Payoff

Hilton Lipschitz, writing about switching to Markdown and whether it paid off:

The key to Markdown writing is that you focus on the content. Structure, format, look and feel are all secondary. It’s pure distraction-free writing. Which means that you have no choice but to write and think about writing and focus on the content. Which encourages you to become a better writer.

For me, Markdown has singlehandedly revolutionized the way I can put together articles for MacStories without wasting hours over HTML and RTF issues.

I used to write in the WYSIWYG editor of WordPress, which meant that I often ended up with strange formatting in my posts and I didn’t have any local copies of my files because there were no files. If the browser tab crashed and I hadn’t saved a draft, the post was gone and I had to start over from scratch. I didn’t want to use Word for Mac and pasting from Pages created even more issues with formatting in WordPress (we are talking about 2009-2010 WordPress), so I stuck with writing in the browser. And it was terrible.

Since I switched to Markdown in late 2012, I have generated an archive of over 600 plain text files that are fully searchable, indexed by Spotlight and Dropbox, and readable by any operating system. Thanks to plain text, my articles and notes are portable and I can switch text editors whenever I want. When I convert to HTML and I see that everything looks good, I get a geeky serotonin kick that reminds why I will never write in the WordPress editor again.

Markdown and related services1 make it easy to add links, formatting, tables, footnotes and to generate HTML with a wide array of settings and options; because of that simplicity I have written more, fixed more typos, and generally dealt with more readable files. Markdown didn’t merely pay off – I don’t know how I’d go back to any other format at this point. It’s just natural.

Tools may not make me a better writer, but Markdown allowed me to ignore the bureaucracy of web publishing, enabling me to write complete articles from anywhere. I’m thankful that it exists.