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Writing without distraction with Markdown

With Markdown you write without distraction. You focus on the content and not the tools.

Distraction is one of the biggest sources of why we humans do less than we are capable of. Why it takes more time or why it has a lower quality. It is one of the reasons I write with Markdown whenever I can. Let’s look what Markdown is and how it works.

What is Markdown

John Gruber created Markdown in 2004 as a lightweight language for formatting text. It is designed in such a way that you can export it without hassle to HTML or Microsoft Word, for example. It is also widely used in forums online.

You can write with Markdown in all text editors, but not all of them translate the markup into formatted text. For example, Microsoft Word ignores Markdown. Apps like Bear or iA Writer do. Publishing tools such as WordPress and Ghost also let you write in Markdown.

What’s the point of writing with Markdown?

You may be wondering why you should use Markdown. It requires learning something new and after all, Microsoft Word also includes the option for formatting text. Yes, that’s right, in part.

Markdown is ideal when you want distraction-free writing. In Word you may be able to format the text with keyboard shortcuts, but that is less fluid than with Markdown. In addition, Word’s user interface is a source of distraction with the ribbon and all its clutter.

Apps like Bear and iA Writer offer you the option of literally a blank screen. All you see is a white background and the text you type. You add formatting to the text while typing, without your hands leaving the keyboard.

Markdown takes away unnecessary noise and in a world full of distractions, that is a blessing.

How to format the text

Writing with Markdown is all about syntax. You add characters like # or * before (and possibly after) a word or piece of text, after which that text gets the desired markup. You create a heading 1 by typing a # in front of the word, no clicking in a toolbar or  </ h1 >, just a # is sufficient.

An overview of all common options can be found on Markdown Guide. All serious text editors that support Markdown can handle this.

Daily use of Markdown

I already mentioned that not all programs support Markdown. Still, I do most of my writing in Markdown. From short notes to essays. Even with texts that end up in Outlook or Word. When I’m done writing, I export the text to Word or I copy it as formatted text and paste it into Outlook.

There’s a reason why apps that focus on thinking and research, like Roam or Obsidian, use Markdown. It facilitates you as a person in what you want to achieve and takes away the distraction. And that’s what makes it so powerful.

You might also like: Writing accessible texts that people understand.