In Rust RFC 1713, a set of documentation ‘tags’ is proposed, to document functions in a similar fashion to e.g. JavaDoc or JSDoc. I recently saw that Swift uses plain Markdown for documentation. Xcode is able to parse this and show contextual information based on it.

Since Rust’s current documentation conventions already wants you to use common names for Markdown headlines to structure your code documentation, I think it would be very nice to continue in this style and use plain Markdown with specific conventions.


Markdown formatting conventions

The following sections are treated specially and are expected to be in the described format.

Common headlines

These are the common headlines from RFC 1574:

Must contain at least one Rust code snippet
Should use sub-headlines when multiple examples are given. Each sub-section should have a headline, followed by a short paragraph explaining the examples, and at least one Rust code block.
Explains when a function panics, should always be included when panic!, assert! or similar are used/when any branch of the function can directly return !
Explain when an error value is returned (see also “Returns” in the next section)
Describes the safety requirements of this function
Similar to panic
Undefined Behavior
Describes for which inputs the function behavior is not defined

Specific machine readable sections

This is aimed at documenting functions and methods, but should also work for documenting type parameters and lifetime parameters of structs, enums, and traits.

(always plural)
List of parameter names with description
(read either as 3rd person singular form or plural “return [values]”)
Plain text description
can be followed by a list of valid enum variants for the return type and descriptions
Alternatively, allow regular pattern matching syntax instead of enum variant names
Type parameters
List of generic type parameters (the T in fn foo<T>()) and description (can also be used to describe trait bounds in where clauses)
(alternatively “Lifetime parameters”)
List of valid lifetime identifiers (without leading ') and description

List syntax

All lists mentioned above must be written like this:

- `$name`: $explanation

That is: A Markdown list where each list items

  • starts with an inline code snippet containing a valid Rust identifier ($name),
  • optionally followed by a colon and a space, which is followed by valid Markdown text ($explanation, can be multi-line, but must be correct in list-item position).


All conventions listed above should be checked by lints.


/// Fooify a `Foo` with a label
/// # Parameters
/// - `label`: A string labelling the foo
/// - `magic`: A `Foo` that will be labeled
/// # Returns
/// A `Result` which is:
/// - `Ok`: A `Bar` that is the labeled `Foo` and thus lives as long as the
///     `Foo` given in `magic`.
/// - `Err`: Returns the number of gravely appalled people (per half-century
///     per country) if you were to use that label *and* `Foo`'s acceptance
///     indicator is less than it.
/// # Type parameters
/// - `T`: A type that can be converted into a `FooLabel`, e.g. a `String`, a
///     `BananaPeelRope`, or a `Cow<str>`.
/// # Lifetimes
/// - `floof`: The life time of the given foo as determined by the floof source
///     it was originally loaded from.
/// # Examples
/// ```rust
/// assert_eq!(fooify("lorem", Foo::extract_from_global_floof_resource()).label(),
///            Bar::with_label("lorem"))
/// ```
fn fooify<'floof, T>(label: T, magic: Foo<'floof>) -> Result<Bar<'floof>, i32>
    where T: Into<FooLabel>

People have been wanting to update rustdoc to use the pulldown-cmark crate instead of the currently used bindings to the hoedown library.

It might be interesting to implement a POC for parsing the format specified above with pulldown-cmark. I did just that.