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Readability, however, is emphasized above all else. A Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it's been marked up with tags or formatting instructions.

While Markdown's syntax has been influenced by several existing text-to-HTML filters -- including Setext, atx, Textile, reStructuredText, Grutatext, and EtText -- the single biggest source of inspiration for Markdown's syntax is the format of plain text email.