Back to Basics: What is Markdown? | HackMD Blog
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April 24, 2024

Back to Basics: What is Markdown?

Rachel Golden
Rachel Golden
Telling HackMD's story, building awareness, and meaningfully connecting with communities.

Having efficient tools for writing and editing online is essential today more than ever. And one such tool is Markdown. This lightweight tool is easy to write with once you understand the basics.

So what exactly is Markdown, how do you start writing in Markdown and why should you care about it? We’re unpacking just that today.

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a lightweight markup language that allows you to format plain text documents using simple syntax. It was created to make writing and editing easier and more accessible for everyone, regardless of their technical expertise.

That last part is important.

It was created for everyone, regardless of their technical background.

Markdown utilizes a straightforward syntax to denote formatting elements within a text document. Elements including headers, emphasis (such as bold and italic), lists, links, images, blockquotes, and code blocks.

Unlike traditional word processors that rely on complex menus and toolbars for formatting, Markdown simplifies the process by using symbols that are easy to remember and apply.

For example, the elements below…

Header 1

Header 2

Header 3 (etc)



  • unordered list
  1. ordered list
  • a task



Images: Hack (2)

code blocks

…are written below in Markdown here.

# Header 1
## Header 2
### Header 3 (etc)
- unordered list
1. ordered list
- [ ] a task
> quote
Images: ![Hack (2)](
code blocks

Why use Markdown?

  1. Simplicity and Ease of Use: Markdown’s syntax is intuitive and easy to learn, making it accessible to users of all skill levels.
  2. Portability and Compatibility: Markdown documents are plain text files, which means they can be opened and edited with any text editor on any platform without losing formatting. Portability is a huge cornerstone for us here at HackMD.
  3. Focus on Content, Not Formatting: With Markdown, writers can focus on the content itself without getting distracted by formatting options, leading to more efficient writing workflows.
  4. Version Control and Collaboration: Markdown plays well with version control systems like Git, making it ideal for collaborative writing projects where multiple contributors are involved.

Getting started in Markdown

To get started using Markdown, all you need is a text editor (like HackMD) and a basic understanding of Markdown syntax or elements (covered above).

Now you’re ready to take your first steps! Below are a few practice exercises to help guide you.

  1. Creating a Simple Document: Start by opening your Markdown editor of choice and creating a new document. Write a short paragraph introducing yourself or describing your favorite hobby. Use Markdown syntax to format the text as needed, such as adding headers or emphasizing certain words.
  2. Formatting Text: Jumping off the first exercise, experiment with different formatting options available in Markdown. Try making text bold, italic, or both simultaneously. Explore how to create headings of different levels to structure your document effectively.
  3. Adding Links and Images: Practice inserting hyperlinks to websites or other documents within your Markdown document. Additionally, try adding images to enhance your content visually. Markdown makes it easy to embed images with simple syntax, allowing you to include visuals seamlessly.
  4. Organizing Content with Lists and Headers: Create a list of items using both unordered (bulleted) and ordered (numbered) list formats. Experiment with nested lists to organize information hierarchically. Additionally, utilize headers of varying levels to delineate sections within your document and improve readability.

Exercises like these will show you how easy it is to write in Markdown while showing how your formatted document will look in the wild.

And once you’ve mastered the basics of Markdown, you can start exploring more advanced techniques to further enhance your documents. Check out our tutorial for a breakdown on many different advanced Markdown techniques.

Learn Markdown with HackMD

Whether you’re writing content for your website, collaborating on code repositories on GitHub, or organizing your notes, Markdown is there to streamline your writing and editing experience.

And you can do all that and more with HackMD.

By embracing Markdown with HackMD, you can streamline your writing workflows, collaborate more effectively with others, and focus on what truly matters: the content itself.

We can’t wait to see what you create.