Markdown syntax reference guide

Writer apps use Markdown formatting. This lets you apply basic formatting by adding a few punctuation characters, such as *emphasis* and **importance**. It’s familiar, and some also subtly formatted on-screen with Writer’s Auto Markdown.

(Note: Auto Markdown is not available in iA Writer for iPad and iPhone… yet. You can preview formatting via Share > Preview.)


  • # Title = First level heading
  • ## Title = Second level heading
  • ### Title = Third level heading

…up to six levels

Emphasis and Importance

  • Emphasis: *example* or _example_ (Command-I in Writer for Mac)
  • Importance: **example** or __example__ (Command-B in Writer for Mac)


Numbered lists: type 1. then a space

1. Ordered list item
2. Ordered list item
3. Ordered list item

Any number (followed by a full stop and space) can be used — list items will be ordered from 1 when exported.

Bulleted lists: type \*, - or + then a space

Create a bulleted list by using an asterisk (*), hyphen (-), or plus sign (+), followed by a space. For example:

* Bulleted list item
* Bulleted list item
* Bulleted list item

Nesting lists

You can also nest lists several levels deep, and combine them:

* First level
** Second level

1. First level
1.1. Second level

* First level unordered list item
* 1. Second level ordered list item

Using tab indents for nesting is also possible when using a physical keyboard, but currently there is no Tab key in the iOS on-screen keyboard, and Auto Markdown is optimized for non-tab nested lists.

* First level
    * Second level

1. First level
    1. Second level


Type > plus a space (just like email):

> A quoted paragraph
>> A quoted paragraph inside a quotation

Create a link by surrounding the link text in square brackets, followed immediately by the URL in parentheses:

[text to link](

You can also use reference links. Add the reference in square brackets after the text to link. Then, on a line by itself add the reference with a colon, space, and the URL:

[text to link][ref]


You can add also images via the following syntax:

![alt text for image](

Currently only web-accessible image URLs are supported. On export to RTF or .docx, currently the image’s alt text is added, but the image is not embedded.


You can mark up code in-line using backticks (`code`), or add a code block by adding at least four spaces to the start of a line:

    This is a code block

In iA Writer, it’s also possible to start a code block with a tab, as long as the text doesn’t start with list, header or blockquote syntax characters (1., *, -, +, #, >).

In Writer Pro, you can use Fenced code blocks, which begin and end with triple backticks, and don’t need indenting:

This is a fenced code block

Note that inline formatting (like _underscores_) is ignored in code.

Separating paragraphs

A line starting with a tab indicates a block of code. Because of this it is currently not possible to use a return-plus-tab to indicate a new paragraph in Writer. Instead, please use one or two returns to separate paragraphs.

Horizontal rules

You can add a thematic break which will be represented by a dividing line (<hr>) when exported to HTML. To do so, add three or more asterisks (*), hyphens (-), or underscores (_) on a line by themselves, optionally separated with spaces. For example:

* * *



“Escaping” formatting characters

If you want to type a formatting character and have Writer treat it as text not formatting, type a backslash first \. This means \* gives *, \_ gives _ etc. Escaping isn’t needed in code blocks.

Exporting on the Mac

iA Writer for Mac supports exporting as HTML, RTF, and Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) via File > Export. For more information on the “Export As” option, please see “Markdown syntax differences” below. You can export as PDF via File > Print > PDF, as formatted or unformatted text.

Writer Pro for Mac supports exporting as HTML, RTF, Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx), and PDF via File > Export. You can export as PDF via File > Print > PDF, or File > Print Formatted > PDF.

Finally, you can copy formatted text from Writer’s Preview to paste into other programs.

In addition to Writer’s export options, you can also convert Markdown to other formats using programs such as Marked for Mac and Pandoc. If anything doesn’t work as expected, please let us know.

Exporting on iOS

iA Writer for iPad and iPhone supports Copy, Copy Formatted, Copy HTML, Email Plain Text, Email Formatted Text, Email Attachment, and Open In….

Writer Pro for iPad and iPhone supports Copy, Copy Formatted, Copy HTML, Email Plain Text, Email Attachment, and Open In….

Markdown syntax differences

Writer apps currently use slightly different syntaxes, with iA Writer for Mac currently using Markdown, and iA Writer for iPad and iPhone plus Writer Pro apps using MultiMarkdown.

In addition, Writer’s default syntax includes some minor changes. These include:

  • Only a single return is needed between paragraphs.
  • Nested list items can use additional list syntax (** list item), in addition to “default” tab indentation (    * list item).
  • iA Writer includes hyphen-based strikethrough (-strikethrough-), while Writer Pro includes double-tilde-based strikethrough (~~strikethrough~~).
  • For iA Writer, not all Markdown syntax is supported.

When exporting in iA Writer for Mac you can choose this default syntax or original Markdown syntax via the Export As: pulldown in the Export dialog. You can also use any plain text syntax in Writer, together with other programs for preview and export.

In Writer Pro, you can change these syntax modifications from on to off, and also turn on support for hyphen-based strikethrough (not recommended). For more information, please read our knowledge base article URL Scheme Support, or consult Writer Pro for Mac’s in-app help.

Writer Pro-only syntax


Add a footnote in square brackets preceded by a caret. Then add the footnote content like a reference link, for example:

Some text with a footnote[^1].
[^1]: The linked footnote appears at the end of the document.


To make a table, use vertical bar characters to denote cells. Start with column headers, separate with a row of cells with hyphens, then add further rows of cells. For example:

| Year | Movie |
| ---- | ----- |
| 1926 | The Great Gatsby, by Herbert Brenon |
| 1974 | The Great Gatsby, by Jack Clayton |
| 2000 | The Great Gatsby, by Robert Markowit |
| 2013 | The Great Gatsby, by Baz Luhrmann |

For more information or assistance with anything syntax-related, please please start a support discussion. Thanks!