How To Use Markdown in WordPress

woman writing in journal with a silver pen

Sometimes it’s easier to create your website’s content outside of the WordPress editor. If you prefer a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, however, you might have experienced the frustration of breaking your post or page when you paste in new text.

Fortunately, you can use Markdown to more easily create content within your site. This is especially helpful if you’re working with multiple contributors who all like to write using different tools. You can simply style and format the page or post once the text is complete. 

In this article, we’ll explore what markdown is and how you can use it in WordPress. Also, we’ll take a look at how to use plugins to get the most use out of this option. Let’s get started! 

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a plain-text form of syntax. This means it’s free of styles and formatting that have unseen coding, which might not play well when pasted into a WordPress post or page:

visual explanation of markdown in a text editor

Additionally, Markdown is also the name of a software tool that creates a text-to-HTML function for writers and editors. 

Benefits and Disadvantages of Markdown in WordPress

There are some significant advantages to using Markdown, especially if there are many individuals working on your site’s content. Let’s take a look at what Markdown has to offer:

  • It can streamline the creation process. You can implement a standardized way of creating text and executing the editing process.   
  • The learning curve is small. Markdown is not complicated, and it can be learned quickly. 
  • You can focus on content. This approach can help to eliminate the distraction of fonts, styles, and structures used in other processors. 
  • It is very flexible. Markdown eliminates problems with compatibility and portability, as it can be exported in many different formats. 

Markdown definitely has a lot going for it. To be fair, however, let’s also take a look at some of the downsides to this option.

  • There are too many ‘flavors’. Since Markdown lacked standardization from the very beginning, developers often created their own ‘flavor’ of it, which can sometimes cause issues. 
  • It is difficult to extend the language. Markdown is essentially finite at this point, and extending the syntax means you’ll be essentially creating a new language (although there is work being done to solve this issue). 
  • There is a lack of semantic meaning. Markdown is meant for writing text only, so there are some things you can’t do, such as identify a class. Some people add in HTML to cope with this, but that means the result will no longer be transferable to other formats.

Although there are a few disadvantages to Markdown, it is still a highly valuable tool. This is particularly true for content creation and agency work within WordPress. If you’re creating large sets of documentation, however, you might want to review your other options as well.  

Enabling Markdown

At this point, you may be wondering how you can use Markdown in WordPress. When it comes to self-hosted WordPress.org (which we highly recommend), there’s no built-in support for Markdown or simple way to enable it by default. Don’t worry though – you can easily use Markdown with the help of a plugin.

Enabling Markdown Using Plugins (In 2 Steps)

As with many WordPress-related tasks, the best way to get started with Markdown is by picking up the right plugin. Let’s walk through the process for enabling Markdown in self-hosted WordPress.

Step 1: Install the Jetpack Plugin

While there are multiple plugins available that can help you enable Markdown in WordPress, our favorite option is Jetpack:

Jetpack WordPress plugin

This is an all-in-one plugin that provides a multitude of features for enhancing your site’s performance, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), security, social media integration, and more. Many users will already have this plugin active on their sites, making it a simple solution.

What’s more, you can enable Markdown in Jetpack’s free version – you won’t need a premium plan. So your first step is to install and activate Jetpack on your site if you don’t already have it. Then, you’re ready to move on to the next stage.

Step 2: Access Jetpack’s Settings to Enable Markdown

Once Jetpack is set up on your site, locate the new Jetpack tab and navigate to the plugin’s Settings:

Jetpack plugin settings in wp admin

Switch over to the Writing tab, and look under the Composing section. Here, you’ll see an option labeled Write posts or pages in plain-text Markdown syntax:

markdown settings for the jetpack wordpress plugin

Simply toggle this option on, and that’s all you need to do! Now if you navigate to any post, page, or custom content type, you’ll be able to add a Markdown block:

Markdown block in wp admin

Here, you can enter your Markdown text and preview what it will look like.

It’s also worth noting that if you like, you can also enable Markdown for comments. To do so, navigate to Jetpack > Settings > Discussion:

discussion setting for the jetpack plugin in wordpress

Toggle the Enable Markdown use for comments option here. Then, visitors to your site will be able to compose their comments in Markdown if they like.

Writing With Markdown

Once you’ve enabled Markdown on your WordPress site, you can start using it to create content. If you’re new to using this particular tool, don’t worry. Writing content with Markdown is actually quite simple.

When using Markdown, you’ll type in your text content and then format it by using special characters. These characters are meant to be simple and universal. When it comes to displaying your content, however, they’ll be automatically converted into the formatting and styles you’re used to.

Here are a few examples of the styles you can use when writing with Markdown:

  • Asterisks to italicize text: *Title* becomes Title.
  • Double asterisks to bold text: **Click Here** becomes Click Here.
  • Brackets and parentheses to indicate links: [WordPress](https://wordpress.org) becomes WordPress.

There’s a lot more you can do with Markdown, of course. We’d suggest checking out the official documentation for a complete list of all the syntax options that are available. With a little practice, you should find yourself writing in Markdown like a pro in no time.

Do Things Your Way With WP Engine

WordPress is all about flexibility. The core platform is lean, so you can add on the features you need and create a workflow that makes sense for you. If that involves creating content in Markdown, you’ll be glad to know that the Jetpack plugin makes the process simple.

Here at WP Engine, we want to support you in building and running a website that meets your needs. To do that, you’ll need expert resources, along with a top-quality WordPress hosting plan. Create a better digital experience for your site’s visitors today!

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