Once upon a time, I used to refuse point blank to write using the WordPress editor. I’d been burnt too many times by refreshing tabs and unreliable sites causing me to lose a big chunk of text, and, as a professional writer, I simply couldn’t afford to take the risk. On top of which, TinyMCE has never been the most pleasant environment in which to write; I much preferred using a simple text editor.
But, over the last year or so, the WordPress writing interface has improved leaps and bounds. Autosave has taken care of the risk of losing work, and the incremental improvements made to the editor — particularly the fullscreen no-distraction mode — have made working in WordPress a pleasure.
Nevertheless, there are still a few tweaks that I like to make to every WordPress installation on which I do more than a few minutes writing work. In this article, I’m going to share the three plugins that I install to make WordPress a writing environment in which I can get serious work done.
I’m a Markdown junkie. Markdown makes me more productive. I don’t have to worry about formatting, spacing, layout, or anything else apart from getting the words on the page. I simply write in Markdown, marking up headings, text formatting, and links, and let the Markdown interpreter worry about what the HTML output.
If you’re not familiar with Markdown, it’s a very simple markup language for text. If “markup” gives you nightmares of HTML (or Latex), don’t worry. Markdown is extremely easy to learn, and it makes a real difference to writer productivity. And because Markdown is just plain text, there are many nifty tools to improve writing workflows. One of my favorites is SearchLink from Brett Terpstra.
The Jetpack plugin adds Markdown support to WordPress, but I don’t like to install the whole of Jetpack just to get Markdown, so I use the JP Markdown plugin instead, which splits the Markdown functionality from the rest.
Every writer has had the experience of proofreading an article and hitting publish, only to immediately see a glaring typo as the post goes live. There’s not much we can do about it short of getting someone else to proofread our work — our brains are very bad at proofreading our own work, however carefully we try.
Proofread Bot is a decent spelling and grammar checker that helps me catch errors I might otherwise have missed.
This one isn’t strictly speaking for writing, but if you plan on writing and publishing regularly, an editorial calendar is a must. Of course, you could just use a piece of paper or a whiteboard, but having the calendar integrated with your content management system makes life a lot easier, and lets you do things like shuffle posts around, keep track of your writing schedule, and add notes to articles. It’s especially helpful if you’re editing a multi-author blog.
In combination with WordPress’s much improved writing interface, these three plugins make the experience of writing with WordPress a pleasure.