While I’m at Macworld, my friend Jason Rehmus has provided a guest post. Jason did the editing for the Marked 1.4 documentation and has just launched Sweating Commas, where he provides affordable editing services for bloggers and web writers. Be sure to check it out!

By Jason Rehmus

We’ll be talking about Marked today, so let’s assume you’re writing your blog posts using Markdown. If not, you should start doing that on your very next post. If you’re unsure about making a change like that, here’s why you should give it a shot.

Some of you out there may use a writing app that converts your marked-up text as you type. I don’t use those apps because I’m pretty sensitive to distraction while I’m writing. Using a very basic program, like TextEdit, suits me perfectly. However, since I prefer to write my blog posts and other pieces in Markdown, I do still want a way to preview the formatting before publishing. That’s why I love using Marked. Once I reach a point in my process where previewing the work is appropriate, I just drag the text file to Marked in my dock and the formatted post jumps up instantly.

Brett put some great features into Marked, but the one I use most frequently is the custom CSS feature. I’m not a coder or a designer, so I don’t go crazy with this, but just a few tweaks have given me some very handy editing tools. After I’ve written several drafts of my posts, I like to do a few passes that focus on very specific areas. Using custom style sheets like this provides switches that let me see what I want to see and ignore the rest.

The first thing I like to look at is the rhythm of the piece. This is kind of subjective, but as you get comfortable evaluating your own writing, you’ll notice patterns. A quick way to see the rhythm in your writing, in a broad sense, is to look at the relative sizes of your paragraphs. If they’re all the same size, your post will have a very regular cadence. This is good for some writing, and it’s up to you to learn whether or not it’s good for yours. Using a style sheet I call Zoom Mode, I can see how my paragraphs look compared to each other. I don’t need Marked to view my writing this way, but the Zoom Mode style sheet allows me to emphasize certain elements in the styling to make the comparison very easy to see. Here’s what this post looks like in Zoom Mode:

Zoom Mode CSS in Marked

The next step for me is to meticulously read through the post, focusing exclusively on the language. Since I’m easily distracted, I don’t want to see links during this phase of editing. The highlighting that accompanies links causes me to add an emphasis to the linked words as I read them, but I really want to make sure what I’ve written makes sense despite the links. Edit Mode effectively hides the links in my document, allowing me to focus only on the words I’ve written. Take a look:

Edit Mode CSS in Marked

At the final stage, I’ve written and thoroughly edited my writing. Before sharing it with the world, I want to make sure I haven’t messed up any of the technical elements, primarily links in the post. Link Mode does the exact opposite of Edit Mode: it makes all of the links in my post scream at me. I do this so I can be confident I find all the links and make sure they’re accurate before publishing the final piece. Marked does a great job validating links for me, but it won’t find incorrect links. After using Marked’s validator, I click all the links to make sure the page that opens is the one I’m expecting. Check it out:

Link Mode CSS in Marked

Here’s a zipped file with all three of the custom CSS files I use while editing. I encourage you to give them a try if you’re a Marked user, or to try Marked now if you’ve never used it before.

Whether you use Marked or some other program, make sure you spend at least as much time editing your work as you do writing it. So much writing on the web should never be posted. The ideas and the messages may be sound, but the errors and inconsistencies prevent readers from taking those writers seriously. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, be sure to take the extra time to rewrite the parts that need work and never be afraid to ask for help if you’d like a second opinion.