Markdown validation

While I’m not the biggest fan of Markdown I’ve been using it for some time now for blogging and to some degree note-taking. During the most recent WriteTheDocs in Portland Lyzi Diamond gave a talk about automated doc-testing which sounded like something I should have integrated into my blogging workflow a long time ago but somehow haven’t yet.

Up until a couple of days ago I was just writing my posts in Emacs, previewing them in Marked 2, spell-checking them (if I don’t forget about that) using aspell, and finally publishing them using Hugo. Then, as written in my post about mobile writing, I’ve now also added iA Writer and Dropbox to my tool chain to bring new ideas more quickly into a draft format. What’s missing, though, is something besides basic spell-checking.

In her talk, Lyzi mentioned retext and remark, two tools that allow you to process Markdown files programmatically and thereby automatically. I’m now trying to incorporate these into my workflow to check for common patterns I’ve noticed creeping into my posts:

  • Historically, I’ve been using tons of emojis. I should probably get that under control and only use at most one emoji per paragraph 😉
  • I tend to write really long sentences that often become so complicated, that I have to re-read them multiple times in order to understand them. If I as the author have to do that, I can only imagine what it must be like for you as the reader 😒
  • Sometimes my headings are just too short or too long. During WriteTheDocs Ingrid Towey said that you should normally have at least 3 and at most 12 words in a heading. 2 to 10 sounds more reasonable for my use-case.

In the remark ecosystem exists a tool called remark-lint which allows you to enforce style guides on your Markdown files. This sounds like the perfect place to start. There are already tons of plugins and rule-sets available for it but sadly nothing that matches the three things I want to check against in my posts.

Luckily, as it turns out, it’s not that complicated to create custom rules if you know some JavaScript, so I created these three packages:

Now I’m using this setup:

$ yarn add -D remark-cli
$ yarn add -D remark-preset-lint-markdown-styleguide
$ yarn add -D remark-lint-heading-length
$ yarn add -D remark-lint-emoji-limit
$ yarn add -D remark-lint-write-good

My .remarkrc contains the following settings:

{
	"plugins": [
		"remark-preset-lint-markdown-style-guide",
		"remark-lint-heading-length",
		"remark-lint-emoji-limit",
		"remark-lint-write-good"
	]
}

Whenever I publish a post I simply run aspell and remark:

$ aspell check path/to/post.md
$ ./node_modules/.bin/remark path/to/post.md

This will give me a good indicator of what I should improve before publishing the post. It’s not a fully-automated process yet nor do I force myself to also apply the suggestions made by remark et al., but it’s a start 😉

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