4 Reasons why your lawyers should use markdown for drafting documents
As a content strategist specializing in public sector and legal firms, I have spent a large proportion of the last 15 years using Microsoft Word for drafting web content. Microsoft Word is undeniably a fantastic product and .DOCX files are likely to remain the default format for sharing and editing legal and business documents for the foreseeable future. However, when it comes to the initial drafting of legal web content in Microsoft Word, you should be aware of much better (and more user-friendly) alternatives existing in the market.
Are you a marketing or communication manager with high working standards? Do you work for a law firm and you believe that writing a qualitative, highly personalized web content is the way to achieve your goals? Do you know that writing good content is a team work effort and would like to involve your lawyers in a fluid, frictionless production work flow to succeed with your legal marketing blog? Then this post is for you.
Does sending the DOCX draft via email to your colleagues so they can incorporate their contributions and then translating it to HTML for the web upload is a common practice?
Considering some of the things listed above, I think there are many reasons why you should consider using markdown format. It is a document file format that was created for writing “simple text” and it serves as a bridge between document drafting and a web page.
Get your lawyers writing code without scaring them
We did a survey recently among lawyers and we found out that almost half of respondents were interested in learning a coding language.
In the digital era your text has to be understood by both humans and machines. But they read it differently. While humans read the words, the machines need additional help which is the so called “code” or “markup language”.
Markdown has certain features that makes the writer, when formating the text, unconsciously inserting markup language that computers understand. This requires a little training, but in a very short period of time your writers will start inserting markup language and doing it in a way that does not hinder the writing process, such as inserting hyper links, headings or lists. That can be done by simply typing characters with your keyboard.
Your lawyers will start seeing that what they write is a very simple code only visible to them as writers, and that it is not the same thing as what the user sees when the text is displayed on a web interface. I see this as an easy and less scary way to get your lawyers be introduced to programming and coding.
Never get stuck with a particular software vendor
There are two benefits of using markdown:
- Conversion versatility: your markdown file can be easily converted into other types of files: html, pdf, mjml, .DOCX, you name it. In order to do that, you need to familiarize yourself with software conversion tools, for instance Pandoc.
- Work with different text editors: as you can see in the video, the same file can be opened locally or in the cloud with different tools. I personally use Retext, Typora and Zettlr. But there are many more available in the market depending on your operating system. Your lawyers are free to choose the one they prefer.
Only use your fingers to write text that computers can decode
When I start drafting, I don’t need to think about the style, fonts or images. I just want to get into the writing flow, focus on the text, have a good writing experience and remove any distractions from my sight.
I don’t need, at this stage, to be interacting with an overloaded screen full of options. I just want my words to flow in an easy way that bridges my mind and the text in front of me. I also like to use my hands (and not my mouse) to introduce characters that are needed to enrich my text for web publishing: things like hyper links, bolds, headings are easily inserted with the keyboard by typing characters.
Here is a tutorial where you can learn the basics to get you started in 30 min. It takes a little practice to get familiar, but once you start, there is no way back.
In the past I used to use Microsoft Word for drafting, but I found I was offered too many features that I did not need and it complicated the writing process. I also felt that the software was too heavy and with the high risk of overloading my computer memory and crashing.
The future of fast and agile content production – writing is Markdown
I have recently discovered a set of web creation tools and cms that are really interesting and I can’t wait to test them. A combination of tools like Hugo, Netlify and Forestry totally changed the game for web creation and here is why:
- there is a new wave of tools for creating websites that can load your websites faster. And they are all using markdown. Unlike WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, you don’t need a database.
- Changes in content are considered commits and therefore are kept track of it’s version of using git. No more loosing track of who suggested what change. This also allows the editors and developers to speak the same language when it comes to keeping track of who is doing what on the site.
- you can edit your posts in markdown and quickly push up your post as markdown documents.
I am Manuel from BigKids, digital reinvention consultant. I am passionate about bringing the teams together to create good content. I see content as a fuel for building excellent digital experience. If you would like to take part in a markdown demo, feel free to contact me or subscribe to the Places of Learning newsletter where we regularly organize meetups around those topics.
Content Strategist with a legal background.
I combine several years of experience in online communication with an advanced technical expertise in web development and an in-depth knowledge of UX trends & marketing tools.