The Beginner’s Guide to Writing With MultiMarkdown

The Easiest, Quickest Way to Write Anything

As a writer, I have tried just about every word processor ever invented. I started with WordStar, moved on to WordPerfect, then graduated to Microsoft Word. But when I started blogging, everything changed.

I ultimately learned HTML, but it is certainly not the most natural way to write. I have used a number of “blog processors,” including BlogJet and then MarsEdit. But in the last few years, I have completely converted over to MultiMarkdown.

It’s a way of writing that turns minimally marked up plain text into well formatted documents, including rich text and HTML. You can even use it directly with WordPress. If you are a writer, you owe it to yourself to explore MultiMarkdown.

And, before your eyes glaze over, it is honestly the easiest way to write anything. The syntax is so simple, you already know it. If you can use an emoticon, you can write in MultiMarkdown.

Why Use MultiMarkdown

Here’s why I use it for writing everything, including email, journaling blog posts, podcast show prep, video scripts, and even entire books. It is easy to write and easy to read. It allows me to:

  1. Focus on the writing. MultiMarkdown separates a document’s content from its structure and formatting. This way I can focus on the actual writing, without getting distracted by font selection, paragraph spacing, bullet styles, headers, footers, etc. As a result, it’s fast. I can generate more words per hour in MultiMarkdown than any other way.

  2. Use my favorite editor. Because I write in plain text, I can use any text editor: Text Wrangler, TextMate, TextEdit, or BBEdit. I happen to use (and love) Scrivener, because it has MultiMarkdown conversion built in. There are numerous other dedicated MultiMarkdown editors available on the Mac, including MultiMarkdown Composer, Byword and Ulysses.

  3. Maintain document portability. Because I write in plain text, my documents are compatible on any device, on any operating system, and on almost any application. My documents are safe no matter what system I use in the future. I will be able to open and edit them even if the software I originally used is long gone.

  4. Convert to the necessary output. When I am ready, MultiMarkdown converts my plain text document into whatever output format I need. It is super flexible. If I need to turn it into beautifully formatted HTML, no problem. I don’t have to write—or even know—computerese. If I need to convert it into a Word document, that’s easy, too.

How to Use MultiMarkdown

In this post, I want to show you how to get started with MultiMarkdown. I’m convinced that once you start, you won’t look back. This post will literally be all you need.

First, fire up your favorite text editor. It doesn’t really matter what you use. Next, create a new document. Now, start writing!

You will use the following syntax to indicate various elements in your document.


You can indicate that a word or phrase should be italic by surrounding it with a asterisks or underlines, like this:

Either *this* or _this_ indicates that the text element should be italics. I prefer the asterisks, but either will work.

Bold text is similar. Simply use double asterisks or double underlines, like this:

Either **this** or __this__ indicates that the text element should be bold. Again, I prefer the asterisks, but either will work.


If you want to use headings or subheadings, you use the number sign. Each additional number sign increases the heading level, like this:

# Heading Level 1
## Heading Level 2
### Heading Level 3
#### Heading Level 4

Note that a space needs to come after the number sign but before the heading text.


I use a lot of lists in my writing, and MultiMarkdown makes them simple to use. If you want a bulleted list, simply precede each item with an asterisk, like this:

* This is the first bulleted item.
* This is the second bulleted item.
* This is the third bulleted item.

If you want a numbered list, precede each item with a number, like this:

1. This is the first numbered item.
2. This is the second numbered item.
3. This is the third numbered item.

You can even nest them, like this:

1. This is the first numbered item.
    * This is a nested bullet.
    * This is another nested bullet.
2. This is the second numbered item.
3. This is the third numbered item.


There are a couple of ways you can do links. You can either include the link inline, like this:

To get a copy of my new e-book, click [here]( "99 Resources to Make Your Personal and Business Life Hum").

Or as a reference at the end of your document, like this:

To get a copy of my new e-book, click [here][99 resources].

[99 resources]: (99 Resources to Make Your Personal and Business Life Hum)  target="_blank"

Note: The second part is the actual reference. That’s what I put at the end of the document. I prefer this, since it keeps things a little cleaner.

The title and the target parameter are optional. The target parameter causes the link to open in a new browser tab.

By the way, I use a little text abbreviation with Typinator to insert the link and handle the formatting, so I don’t have to remember the syntax. It’s a little geeky, so leave me a comment if you want the code.


You can refer to images inline, like this:

![This is the alternate text]( "My Logo")

Or as a reference, like this:

![This is the alternate text][mylogo]

[mylogo]: "My Logo"

Like links, the second part is the actual reference. I rarely insert images directly like this in my writing, but, when I do, I prefer the reference style.

Block Quotes

If you want to insert a block quote, you simply precede it with the right angle bracket or greater than sign, like this:

As Warren Buffet said,

>The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.

Where to Go Next

What I have shown you above is technically just Markdown. For most people, it is all they will ever need. It handles 99.9% of my writing needs.

However, if you need more power, you can use some of the expanded features of MultiMarkdown. These include tables, footnotes, and citations, to name a few.

I won’t go into that here, since it is beyond what most people need. If you are interested, here is a complete MultiMarkdown reference.

If you want to get a feel for MultiMarkdown and easily preview how the formatted text looks, I recommend you give Byword a try. It is only $9.99 in the App store. It is worth the price just for the education. It is also a delightfully minimal word processor.

By the way, I wrote this entire post in MultiMarkdown (of course). If you want to see what it looks like in it’s raw form, click here. When I finished, I just cut and pasted into my WordPress post in text mode. You must have the Jetpack Markdown module installed.

Question: Could you see yourself writing in MultiMarkdown?