On Complex Lists

John Gruber gruber at fedora.net
Sun Mar 28 21:44:23 EST 2004

Matt Mullenweg <m at mullenweg.com> wrote on 03/28/04 at 12:10p:

> Not a specific reply, just general thoughts. Lists can be very 
> complicated. As it stands, Markdown covers 95% or more of what I do in 
> everyday writing. Trying to cover that last fraction of possible uses, 
> possibly to the detriment of the covered 95%, would limit Markdown's 
> usefulness in the long run.

I agree, but I think a lot of what we're talking about recently with
regard to lists isn't necessarily *complex*. This, for example:

    a. Red
    b. Blue
    c. Green

is not a complex list. I would argue that it's a very simple list.

I don't think this is a complex list either:

    40. Ronald Reagan
    41. George Bush
    42. Bill Clinton
    43. George W. Bush

Forget for the moment what the resulting HTML would need to look
like. What matters most for us, I think, is whether *Markdown's list
syntax and rules* are complex. I think both of the above lists are
actually fairly simple.

> Personally, if I need to do something out of the ordinary, like a single 
> item "list", dropping into markup is not a big deal.

Yes, definitely, and it's just another example of why one Markdown's
fundamental ideas is that you can always just switch to raw HTML.

But, the reason I think it's worth trying to support single-item
lists is that when someone decides to write a single-item, list,
surely they'll try this first:

    1. Foo

and they'll be at least a little disappointed if it doesn't work.
And in the worst case, they might be downright confused. If we need
to remove support for single-item lists, we will, and I will
document the limitation. But documenting it won't prevent people
from trying it, because it's an obvious thing to try.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if most Markdown users don't
already expect things like the 40-43 list above to work. They just
haven't tried it yet because it is such a relatively rare thing.


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