The Complete Guide to Formatting Your Stories on Medium

Because you want them to read it all — don’t you?

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You already know you must publish your best possible work if you want people to read, right? Bottom line — your content has to be awesome!

But do you know that how you format that content is just as important to the reader?

I read a lot of stories on Medium every day. The thing that bothers me the most is that some writer’s stories may not ever get read because, formatting-wise, they are almost unreadable.

What can you do to make your stories usable to the average person, both on Medium, and the web?

I’m glad you asked.

1. Use Short, Concise Paragraphs

Many of the writers here on Medium come from a traditional publishing background. They are more used to writing manuscripts than they are writing blog posts and articles.

When you are writing for Medium or the web, you need to make sure your paragraphs are short and to the point. You want the reader to pass from point to point quickly, all the while moving down the page.

Making sure you don’t have longs blocks of text will ensure that people will be able to follow along easily.

2. Use Headings to Break Up Topics

The fact is, on the web, many people don’t take the time to read thoroughly.

They skim.

Breaking each topic up with a heading is a key way to make sure you get your reader to focus on the point you are trying to make. On Medium, you have to be creative because there are only two levels of headings:

This Would Be the Big Heading.

This is the Smaller Heading.

Two levels of headings make it hard if you try to break thoughts up too much.

Headings don’t always fit in every situation. Sometimes personal stories or fiction don’t lend themselves well to headings — use your best judgment.

A quick note: Headings should be in title case, not in all caps or lowercase.

3. Bold and Italic

We are all taught the proper usage of bold and italic in school, right? For the web, and for Medium, it’s a little bit different.

You can use bold on the introduction sentence of a longer paragraph to highlight the point you are trying to make. What is normally acceptable is thrown out the window when you are writing on the internet. Look for creative ways to break up your work and make it easier for readers to understand when they are skimming.

I like to sprinkle bold throughout to make certain words or phrases stand out.

Italic can be used for emphasis on proper names, like Coca-Cola, or my favorite, on dialogue. I often say, “Why don’t I just use italics on whatever I speak?”

Italic can also be used to add shades of meaning to your words. Use your imagination because everything is different on the web. Just don’t overdo it, because that is just annoying!

4. Show Everyone the Way with Numbers

I must admit I don’t normally do this, but I was doing research and came across an article on CopyBlogger and thought it was a great idea. Do you notice what I did to my headings?

Numbering is a great way to keep your readers moving down the page and giving them a feeling of progress. It’s almost like the progress bars you see when you are downloading a large file.

Same concept.

5. Use Bullets — Just Don’t Shoot Anyone

I can’t begin to tell you how important the use of bullets is to the readability of your stories. Again, they are probably not the best when you are writing fiction or telling a personal story. But, in most cases, if you are laying out information, a bulleted list is the best way to go.

Bullets are great for:

  • Lists
  • Expressing promises or benefits
  • Summarizing
  • When you want to make a point without complete sentences

I’ll admit that I don’t use bullets as much as I should, but I am writing this article as much for me as I am for you, dear reader.

6. Use Blockquotes

Blockquotes are great for breaking of long blocks of text.

You can use them to emphasize quotes, concepts, or important information.

I do see a lot of writers here on Medium using block quotes. The thing is, like anything else, you can overdo it. Be kind to the reader. Don’t irritate them!

7. Start and End with a Bang!

This tip doesn’t have much to do with formatting, but I thought I would add it because it’s important.

Your introduction is the only way you have to get someone interested in reading your whole story. Try to generate interest with the first line and paragraph.

Quote something, shock them, delight their senses — do anything you can to hook them from the start!

Also, don’t end abruptly. Summarize or leave them with a point that wraps up your whole piece. Cliffhangers are great for television shows, but not when you are writing an article.

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Not only do you want your content to be awesome, but your formatting should make it easy to read your work — even if the reader is skimming.

If you follow the tips outlined above, your read stats should go through the roof, and in turn, your fans!

We all want that, don’t we?

This story was not curated. If you write and publish on Medium, you know what that means — a quick death. If not, it just means that it won’t be promoted to other readers on Medium.

But it doesn’t always have to be like this, and this is where I add value to your life. It works like this:

We all write free content for Medium. They don’t pay for it. The money we pay to be members is more than enough to pay the writers who are making money. In return for us writing millions of words of free content and paying the writers who engage with the readers (us again), Medium forbids us from adding any more than a simple text link to the bottom of posts to promote ourselves.

If you do everything right, you get curated.

I have no problem with that. I’ve been with Medium for over a year-and-a-half, and I absolutely fricking love that they gave me a platform to earn and share my writing. I tell everyone I know to join Medium and start writing.

But, if I don’t get curated, my stories die. I don’t earn. The only traffic I get comes in is from Google, and if the people they are sending are not Medium subscribers, I don’t get paid.

But Medium benefits greatly. Every time we bring eyeballs onto the platform, Medium gains authority and in turn, members. They also get income from writers paying them for exposure by featuring them in publications and other places on Medium, even if they aren’t members. It’s a great business model.

I thank Medium for giving me the platform, and I respect them, especially when they curate me and my stories live on.

So Medium, I love you, and if you curate me, I will follow the rules and only put a small text link to my newsletter at the bottom.

But, if I am not curated, I am going to use my work to promote myself and my brand.

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Writer | Essayist | Video Content Creator | Future member of the two-comma club | Dreamer - I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up.