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How to take Text Editing to the next level in your small business

Have any of you ever written content for a website or blog and found that the output or RSS feed was corrupted by rogue HTML or even worse, junk from a copy/paste via Word?  And then spent hours trying to fix it?

Me too.

Sadly, judging by the comments in the last post on TextEditors, I’m not the only one!  Imagine how frustrating is it to find, edit and prune out the junk. Ugh, like many I have spent too many hours wasting time editing instead of concentrating on writing content.

Over the last few years, I moved more of my writing into text files and away from Word Processors such as Word, as we discussed in the last post on Text Editors.

The funny thing?

More and more people are doing writing in plain text too, partly for the elegance and simplicity and partly out of necessity. Just because the Corporate and Enterprise world is still hung up on bloatware, doesn’t mean that we have to be lemmings too.

We covered quite a few plain text tools previously, including Simplenote and Notational Velocity, to mention two that work with the desktop and iPad/iPhone sync well, but there are plenty of others including TextEdit, PlainText, WriteRoom, Notesy, BBEdit, TextWrangler to name a few. I’m not going to cover the apps per se, but rather focus on a revelation that happened to me recently.

I was wondering how I could make more use of the >1000 plain text notes I make and came across a brilliant solution.


Here’s what happens… in the words of the development guru, 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).”

Source Daring Fireball

Essentially, you take your plain text and add simple formatting syntax and then a tool converts the formatted plain text into html.  Thus, I typed plain text for this post into Notational Velocity, add the header syntax etc and cut n pasted it into the Markdown convertor tool.  It will look like this (the bottom box previews how it will look in a web post):


Using the html converter (clicking Source in the Results drop down menu then hit Convert) you then get the HTML code, which looks like this for cutting/pasting into WordPress:

Markdown to HTML convertor tool

Pretty cool and nifty, eh?

Sometimes, copying and pasting a useful quote into WordPress or your website editor from Word can end up with extra gibberish you really don’t need. This may be hidden and cause slowing of the website or worse, wonky copy in your newsletters. Yes, it’s happened to me too 🙁

The beauty of combining plain text with Markdown is the simple syntax such as ## or > can be added as you go or at the end using shortcut keystrokes in TextExpander, making the whole experience very fast and easy.

You can also get TextExpander Touch for the iPhone and iPad from the iTunes App Store. With Dropbox syncing, this allows you to use the same custom shortcuts across all your computers, including the smart phone/tablet. The advantage of this is really fast, efficient typing. More on TextExpander and how you can use it in your every day business life in the next productivity post, so do check back for the next How-To in the series.

Another advantage I also love that Scrivener can import and export Markdown files, which makes it useful managing (and printing) for large documents and reports. Yes, Markdown can be used for writing reports, even copy for your marketing brochures.  No more fighting with Word over cranky formatting!

In Summary…

What I like about this approach with Markdown syntax is that it allows me to focus on the Zen of writing and getting stuff out of my head, with less time getting frustrated by formatting quirks and irritations.

Over a day, that can add up significantly.  To a small business person or a consultant, time is money.


Sally Church

Sally Church PhD is a scientist interested in improving cancer outcomes through research and more targeted, less toxic drugs.

She runs a small boutique consulting firm based in Miami, FL that provides strategic advice to Pharma and Biotech companies in strategic analyses, thought leader market research and business intelligence.

You can find out more about her insights into cancer R&D on her blog at