“Ditch WordPress?!” You’re thinking, “What is this crazy guy talking about?!” No, I’m not saying you should ditch WordPress altogether. What I am advocating, though, is to consider composing your blog posts in an outside editor like Draft or Byword using Markdown syntax. Do I have you confused already? Stay with me, it will soon be made clear.
Let me tell you a quick story…
Why You Should Never Write Blog Posts in WordPress
It only took one time of losing 1,000+ words for me to realize that I should never draft blog posts in WordPress. I’m not even sure what happened. I was on a roll and kept writing, all the while forgetting to click the little “save draft” button. Then all of the sudden the page is refreshing itself. When it’s done I see this message: “ALERT! You are logged out. Could not save draft. Please log in again.” I almost punched my Macbook Air. Has this ever happened to you? Not wanting to repeat that same awful scenario, I decided I would no longer write my blog posts in WordPress. I’d find a better solution and then just copy and paste into WordPress when it was time to edit.
What is Markdown?
Markdown is an easy way to write content for the web. Unlike HTML (WordPress Editor) where you have to use various tags to create headlines, make links, or bold words, Markdown is super simple and fast.
Markdown is ideal for those writing content to the web who could be easily distracted by HTML tags.
Why Use Markdown?
1. It’s Easy. You can honestly learn everything you need in 5 minutes. That’s 5 minutes that will save you countless hours moving forward.
2. It’s Fast. A lot of people write in the built in Word Press WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor where you have to highlight text and click buttons to make formatting changes. Markdown improves efficiency by allowing bloggers to simply use asterisks to **bold** their words. That’s just one quick example of the formatting you can do the fly without having to lift your hands from the keyboard and click buttons.
3. It’s Readable. If you’re like me occasionally you have the need to jump over to the HTML tab in the WordPress editor when things aren’t displaying correctly. The HTML always looks like a jumble of opening and closing tags and huge blocks of text. It’s a mess!
Compare that to…
The overriding design goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible. -John Gruber, the creator of Markdown
Easy Markdown Syntax
Enough already! How do I actually write in Markdown? This is far from a complete list of everything Markdown can do, but it will get you started.
> wrap to multiple lines.
**This is how you bold a sentence**
*This is how you italicize a sentence*
Those are the Markdown elements I use on a daily basis. You’re up and running! That’s all you need to start writing in Markdown today. If you want to dive even deeper, check out this guide
How to Convert Markdown to HTML for the Web
You can use this plugin if you want to continue to do your writing in WordPress. I personally don’t use this method (remember my 1,000 lost words?). But the WP-Markdown plugin transforms your WordPress editor and allows you to write in Markdown. It even has an “as you type” preview pane. Here’s how to set it up…
Like I mentioned before, I value a good clean writing experience. That’s why I prefer to compose my blog posts outside of WordPress using Draft and then import into WordPress for the final editing. Let me show you how simple it is to compose blog posts in Draft using Markdown, and then export them in HTML to WordPress. This is the exact same process I use and it couldn’t be easier.
Best Markdown Writers
I’m in love with Draft right now but there are lots of other good options. When making your decision you should think about these things (Draft nails them all!):
- Beautiful writing experience
- Built with Markdown in mind
- Easy to collaborate
- Auto save
- Reasonable price (or free!)
This is far from an exhaustive list but these are a good places to start your foray into writing in Markdown.
- Byword (I own and like, although not as much as Draft)
- iA Writer
- Ulysses III
- Markdown Pro