The Better Marketing Style Guide

How to write and format your stories the way we do

Brittany Jezouit
Oct 2 · 7 min read
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Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash

At Better Marketing, all of our articles go through a copy edit to ensure quality and consistency for all of our stories. This guide focuses on the mechanics and more technical aspects of an article, including grammar, formatting, and imagery. Here’s how you can format your stories the way we do!

In this guide: 
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Titles and Subtitles

The basics: each article should have a title and a subtitle.

  • The title should be title-case according to AP Style, which means that all major words are capitalized. A tool like Title Case Converter can be helpful. (Note that “How to” is capitalized with a lowercase t in titles.)
  • The subtitle should be sentence-case, which means capitalizing it like you would a regular sentence. We usually don’t use punctuation at the end of subtitles.
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Grammar and Spelling

We’re looking for accurate grammar and spelling. That means no typos or grammar errors. A free tool like Grammarly will catch most of this for you, so we highly recommend using it (or something like it!).

We don’t have a preference for American English (color) vs. British English (colour), but please pick one and stay consistent throughout the piece.

We use the Oxford comma, so lists of three or more items should have commas (example: We publish case studies, advice, and tutorials).

Please do not use single quotes, aka ‘scare quotes’, like ‘these.’ Generally, you should use regular quotation marks (“”) for actual dialogue and italics for anything else. The exception to this is in titles, where single-quotes are standard per AP guidelines.

For dashes as breaks in a sentence, please use Medium’s long dashes — like this. If you use two short dashes ( — ), Medium will convert it to a long dash for you. Do not use spaces on either side of the dashes.

Capitalization: Not sure whether “influencer” or “ketogenic” should be capitalized? There are lots of words in our articles that are newer and don’t have standard rules. Do a Google search to see what the generally agreed-upon capitalization or formatting is (usually, it’s lowercase). The New York Times also uses AP Style, so a search of phrase + nytimes can be a helpful shortcut.

When writing about percentages, use numbers and the % sign, not spelled-out numbers or “percent.” Ex: 55%.

Job titles should generally not be capitalized. That means senior marketing manager, not Senior Marketing Manager.

For numbers, spell out any numbers below 11 (ex. “ten”, “seven”); numbers higher than 10 should be written numerically (“3958”). There are some exceptions to this, like numbers in titles (“5 Tips for Writing Video Scripts”) or when it makes sense to keep it in numeral form (2 + 2 = 4).

If you are writing a numbered list, please format it with the number, a period, and then the item. Ex: 1. Item

Please use AP Style for times. Ex: 7 a.m.

When using a colon, lowercase the next word unless the following phrase can be read as a standalone, complete sentence. Ex: She told me her secret ingredient: It was butter.

If you’re not sure about a grammar question, the AP Stylebook or a Google search of phrase + AP Style should help.

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Formatting

Each article should be formatted in this order:

  1. Title (title-case, less than 100 characters)
  2. Subtitle (sentence-case)
  3. Header photo (sized in-line with the text)
  4. H1 section header (title-case)
  5. H2 section header(s) (sentence-case)
  6. Body text/paragraphs
  7. Section break (the three dots, like the one above Formatting in this section)
  8. The second H1 section header
  9. The second H2 section headers
  10. Body text/paragraphs
  11. (and so on!).

Here’s an example of 1–3:

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Article: Confessions of a Mascot

Please be mindful of the header hierarchy. A section should start with the H1 header, not H2. The H2 headers should only go under an H1 header. We also do not use the H2 formatting for anything other than headers (i.e., don’t use it just to make a sentence stand out).

Don’t go wild with bold, italics, bold italics… excessive formatting can be hard to read. Good writing should stand on its own!

We also usually avoid ALL CAPS, unless it fits the writing style or adds to the article.

Shorter paragraphs are easier to read than longer ones. Same with sentences. A big wall-of-text can be hard to follow. Look for natural breaks in your writing, or shifts to new ideas, and consider breaking things up so it’s shorter and easier to read. We recommend throwing your article text into the Hemingway Editor to do a quick check for the readability score.

Please use Medium’s quote formatting for actual quotes only. Don’t quote-format sentences or phrases for emphasis. (Which quote formatting to use? Generally, for shorter quotes, use the larger, grey quote format. For longer quotes, use the smaller, black text one, italicized.)

For hyperlinks, use a descriptive phrase to link to, rather than a call to action or “click here,” etc. Ex: “In a previous post about this topic,” not “click here for a previous post.”

Please make sure your links are clean and don’t have any tracking information or other URL-junk attached to it. (This usually happens when a writer grabs the URL from a Facebook ad, or a newsletter they read, etc.) Also, please remove any Amazon affiliate links.

At the end of the article, please remove any calls to action, additional links (unless they’re references), newsletter sign-ups, or anything self-promotional. A “thanks for reading” can be nice to add, but it’s not necessary.

Don’t use drop caps. (That’s the formatting with the D here.)

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Images

Every article should have a nice, professional header image, which you can get from Unsplash without worrying about licensing.

All images should be credited, preferably with a link to the source. Ex: Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash.

Please try to select photos that aren’t the first or most obvious choice and aren’t too literal. Scrolling down past the first “page” of photo results can help with that. Also, try to avoid photography on Unsplash that’s overused or generic—pick imagery that is unique and welcoming to the reader.

We aim to choose photos for articles that reflect diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, stock photo websites are often not as inclusive as they should be. Please take some time to find photos that represent people of all races, genders, body types, and ages.

Don’t choose photos that objectify or sexualize people, especially women. Again, this is a prevalent issue with stock photography that we don’t want to endorse or support.

Consider the content of the article and whether the photo matches and is appropriate. This is important to consider when the photo is talking about real-life people or events, but you’re tasked with choosing a stock photo that “matches” the content.

Your images should be center-aligned. Use the alignment that’s the second-to-left option, with the image as wide as the article text (see image below for an example).

Please add an alt text description to all photos. We’d like to include alt text descriptions on as many images as possible so that blind/visually impaired readers using screen-readers can still get a sense of what’s going on in them. You can do this by clicking on an image and then alt text on the menu that pops up. There are only 125 characters to work with right now, so just do the best you can. (Note: Unfortunately, at the moment, Medium can’t add alt text to images in grids, so don’t worry if you click on one and the popup menu doesn’t have the alt text option.)

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Thanks for reading, and I hope this was helpful! If you have questions, please feel free to leave a response.

This article is focused on the technical side of publishing with Better Marketing. If you’re looking for guidance on content, you can find that on our Write for Us page.

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Brittany Jezouit

Written by

Kindness, creativity, curiosity. Editor of Better Marketing. Richmond, VA.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Brittany Jezouit

Written by

Kindness, creativity, curiosity. Editor of Better Marketing. Richmond, VA.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

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