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A Guide to Markdown Syntax for Copywriters

Did you know? Nutshell now supports basic Markdown in emails. Start formatting your emails in Nutshell to deliver the most effective message to your customers.

As a small business owner, content creator, marketer, or community manager, knowing how to write Markdown is a helpful skill to have. Writing in Markdown will help you communicate more effectively by adding various styling elements to your content, without the need to learn traditional HTML or CSS.

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a way of creating content for the web without learning any programming language. Everything is written in plain text that’s very easy to read, write, and understand. While there are some special symbols you do have to learn about, they’re nothing close to the complexity of tags used in standard HTML or the line formatting you have to understand in order to be able to write in CSS.

Markdown is designed to be quick, easy, and accessible to the average person, which makes it perfect for small business owners, bloggers, and others who want to be able to create engaging webpages but don’t have the time to learn how to code or the money to spend on hiring a professional. Below, I’ll make it easy for you to learn Markdown in its simplest form.

The Basics

In other types of coding, like HTML, special command words, tags, or other syntax is used to tell the computer what to do or how to display something. Learning these tags isn’t impossible, but it can take a while, especially if you want to do a lot of different formatting or do something outside of the basics. Markdown does away with all of that. To write paragraphs, you simply type the text you want. If you want to add some formatting, all you have to do is include a special punctuation character at the beginning of the line or around the text you want to change.

Learning Markdown

Ready to jump in and get started using Markdown? Here are the basic characters you’ll need to know.


There’s nothing special here. Just type like you normally would. When you want to make a new paragraph, just leave a blank line in between the line of the last paragraph and the start of the new one. There is no paragraph tag like you’d find in HTML.

Adding emphasis to words

Making words bold or italicized is a common (and important) part of adding emphasis to your writing. In Markdown, it’s as easy as pushing SHIFT + 8 on your keyboard. Let’s take a look.

Italicize a word: *word* or _word_

Bold a word: **word** or __word__

Combine the two: **This part is bold _whilst this part is bold and italicized_**

Italicized word: word

Bold word: word

Combination: This part is bold whilst this part is bold and italicized


In some cases, you may want to use blockquotes to set out certain pieces of text. This is very easy to do:> The text after this symbol will be in a blockquote.

This is what it would look like.

There is no need to put any sort of symbol at the end. Just continue typing; when you want to end the blockquote, simply leave a blank line between the quoted text and your next paragraph.

Need to do a blockquote within a blockquote? That’s easy, too.

This is your regular paragraph.> Blockquote.


>>Blockquote within the blockquote.


> And this is the remaining quote from the first blockquote.

This would appear as follows:

BlockquoteBlockquote within the blockquote.

And this is the remaining quote from the first blockquote.

Now this is back to a regular paragraph.


In addition to creating level 1 headings, you can create many other types of headings. Each corresponds to one of the heading levels found in HTML (i.e., heading 1 will look the same as if you had used the h1 tag in HTML).

Heading 1: #

Heading 2: ##

Heading 3: ###

Heading 4: ####

Heading 5: #####

Heading 6: ######

For example:

# Level 1 heading

## Level 2 heading

### Level 3 heading

These Markdown elements will appear like this:

Level 1 heading

Level 2 heading

Level 3 heading

You can put a matching pair of # symbols at the end of each line, but you don’t have to. Some people do prefer it simply because it makes it very clear what text is a heading, but unlike HTML, you do not need closing tags in Markdown.


Want to make a list? It’s incredibly easy. Unordered lists are created by including an asterisk or hyphen before each list item:* Item 1

* Item 2

* Item 3

Or- Item 1

– Item 2

– Item 3

If done correctly, your unordered list will look like this:

  • Item 1
  • Item 2
  • Item 3

To create a numbered or ordered list, simply number the list as you would if you were writing it in Microsoft Word.

1. Item 1

2. Item 2

A.  Item 1

B.  Item 2

Again, if done correctly, your ordered list will look like this:

  1. Item 1
  2. Item 2

There you have it! The basics of Markdown to help you get started.

Here is a great resource on using Markdown and a nice tool to start practicing your new skill.

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