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December 1, 2014

How To Use Markdown

Markdown Spices Up Your Writing

Markdown was developed by John Gruber.

Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

The above was taken from Gruber’s website.

I shied away from trying Markdown for a long time because I don’t know how to write code or do html, and I don’t understand anything that goes beyond simple typing and styles.

But I was intrigued by what seemed like the simplicity of the language, and even more so by the beauty of it. Imagine turning plain text into beautiful documents without a lot of trouble—or so they said. Finally I broke down and decided to give it a try.

After a few feeble attempts, I was about to give up. The basics were easy enough:

  • Using # for Headings
  • Using – or * for unordered lists and numbers for ordered lists
  • A simple > turned text into block quotes
  • And using one asterisk on each side of a word or phrase produced italics. Using two bold.

All of this was fine. But when I ventured into more complex territory I became frustrated. Simple tasks like right and left alignment, making tables, inserting images, etc. It seemed as if I needed to attend software development classes just to get by.

But the lure of what it could do inspired me to keep trying.

One of the nicest things about learning how to use Markdown is the freedom it gives you. I can write entire blog posts on my iMac or iPad without my fingers leaving the keyboard. And then, with a few more keystrokes, I can post it to WordPress, Tumblr, and many other places, including categories and tags.

Here are a few examples of how to turn dull plain text into a great post.

How To Use Markdown

For headings, you simply use hashtags, so when I use one hashtag whatever follows it will be transformed into a primary heading, like this:

This Is How You Make A Heading

If I used three or five hashtags it would look like this:

This Is How You Make A Number Three Heading

And a Number Five Heading

To make a list, you have a few options. I choose the hyphen. Place a hyphen and then a space and whatever follows it will be preceded by a bullet point. (Note, you have to have an extra line between the previous text and your list.)

  • This is a list, but I didn’t have to leave the keyboard to make it.
  • And this is line two.

And this is a block quote (made by using a >followed by a space and then text.)

The Hard Stuff

Everything I’ve showed you so far has been the easy stuff. How about tables and footnotes and images and links?

I have to admit that, at first, I was put off by these and so I wasn’t getting the benefit I should have from Markdown. I would end up writing a post, putting it on WordPress and then inserting images the way I had always done before. If tables were involved it was trickier. And then I got the idea of using a text shortcut app to get the results I wanted.

The following is an example of what you need to do to insert images from your media library on WordPress.

<a href="http://giacomogiammatteo.com"><img src="IMAGE" width="" height="" border="0"></a>

As you can see that’s a lot to remember, so I simply made a shortcut in my shortcut app that expands to this when I type “imagelinkgg”.

Let’s Break This Down

The “gg” part of my shortcut tells the expansion to insert my website address for giacomogiammatteo.com. If someone clicks on the image that will be in the post, it will take them to that site. If I’m writing a blog for my career site, I simply use “imagelinknm” and it takes clickers to “nomistakes.org”.

That’s all great, but the magic comes in next. See the “image” part of the Markdown? All you have to do is replace that with the url of the image on your site and the image will appear. I’m going to show you a link for a pic of one of our rescues, Hotshot.

That doesn’t even begin to address all that you can do with Markdown. Once you grow accustomed to it, even complex posts become easy, and, as I said, the best news is you can write all of this on your iPad and publish it in minutes. I’m sure you can do it on other tablets, but I think there are far more Markdown apps for the Mac and IOS.

Here’s a link to a post I did on CreateSpace and IngramSpark. It was written on my iPad, tables, images, and all.

But That’s Not All

One of my favorite things is being able to make signatures embedded with images and links, and all using plain text Markdown. Here are a few examples:

Please note, you can click on any of the social media icons to connect with me, or the book trailer link to view that.

Have a great day,


Giacomo (Jim) Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

Book Trailer
Website: Giacomo Giammatteo
eMail: gg@giacomog.com



The best part of all is I can produce that signature using my text expansion app simply by typing in ggsig.

Bottom Line

I’ve only touched on the basics of what can be done, but the bottom line is Markdown can make your life simpler and help you come across more professionally. If you do guest posts, it’s only one click away to export your Markdown post into an html document which can be uploaded in seconds to a WordPress blog—images and all. Your host will love you for it.

I hope you got some use out of this. If you did please consider signing up for the mailing list

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

2 Responses to “How To Use Markdown”

  1. Just a note,

    I read the entirety for your Create Space v, Ingram discussion ( I’m a newby to self publishing) and I Learned a lot. But, when I turned to your watchdog site I choked-up. The story about your pet pig and greyhound brought tears to my eyes. You have a very special writing talent, and I hope that you will have the opportunity to share it with the world.

    Best, Dave

  2. Thanks for writing. I love writing, but taking care of the animals is even better. A lot more work, but much more rewarding.
    Giacomo recently posted..The Bad Side of SanctuariesMy Profile

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