literal code L
A link (cross reference) to name L manpage L item in manpage L section in other manpage L<"sec"> section in this manpage (the quotes are optional) F Used for filenames Z<> A zero-width character
That's it. The intent is simplicity, not power. I wanted paragraphs to look like paragraphs (block format), so that they stand out visually, and so that I could run them through fmt easily to reformat them (that's F7 in my version of vi). I wanted the translator (and not me) to worry about whether " or ' is a left quote or a right quote within filled text, and I wanted it to leave the quotes alone dammit in verbatim mode, so I could slurp in a working program, shift it over 4 spaces, and have it print out, er, verbatim. And presumably in a constant width font.
In particular, you can leave things like this verbatim in your text:
Doubtless a few other commands or sequences will need to be added along the way, but I've gotten along surprisingly well with just these.
Note that I'm not at all claiming this to be sufficient for producing a book. I'm just trying to make an idiot-proof common source for nroff, TeX, and other markup languages, as used for online documentation. Both pod2html and pod2man translators exist.