Medium 101

How to Publish Shortform

You have more flexibility than you think with your new profile pages

We’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with Medium’s new publishing tools at GEN. We publish a lot of different kinds of writing about politics and culture, including longform investigative features, opinion pieces, big ideas essays, interviews, series—anything from 500 words to 5,000 words.

But sometimes the news is moving fast and we want to respond in kind. Or we want to shout out a great piece from one of our fellow anchor publications or platform writers. We want to write short, usually under 100 words. Here’s how we’re going about it, and why.

Some goals for shortform

  • Vary the writing on your profile page. Not all of our articles are created equal, right? Sometimes we want to respond to breaking news with a quick comment, other times we’ve seen a great piece floating around that relates to something we’ve already published. Think of your profile page as a feed. What’s long, what’s medium length, and what’s short? Your new Medium profile isn’t just a gathering of your writing — it’s a living, breathing thing.
  • Introduce the reader into your profile stream. A great thing about shortform is that doesn’t have the “read more” break under 150 words. This means shortform can be a gateway to get people into your stream, reading your work.
  • Shout out an article, or another writer. Did you read something you really enjoyed? Write a short post about it, tag the writer, and link to their piece.

A few technical parameters

  • Under 150 words. This size article will appear in its entirety on your profile page. It won’t break to “read more.”
  • Over 150 words. This will break at 100 words with a “read more.” Consider if you want people to click to read more, or if you want to cut down.

The tools

You’ve always had the tools for shortform. Here are a few we like to use together.

Bold the first sentence of the paragraph. See, I just did it. Think of this as your headline. Now your reader knows what they’re getting into.

Recirculation. Copy and paste a link into your post. Now hit “enter.” Give it a minute and the link should pop up looking like this.

If you’re writing about a person, tag them. This lets them know you’re writing about them. Just type “@” and then begin to type the name of the person. It should pop-up and the text will turn green when selected.

A few examples

Here’s a super short post. We wanted to highlight the great LEVEL series, “The Only Black Guy in the Office” by giving it a shoutout. This is about 100 words.

Here we’re saying a bit more. More commentary on the piece, more stats, and more quotes. This is about 130 words.

Here we’re using a quote in the Header font. Make sure you give that quote attribution below by tagging the writer. And why not link above and throw in a recirc link, too! The more you cite your sources, the better.

Here’s a really cool way the Medium Coronavirus Blog team uses shortform: The pinned post at the top of their feed updates every day with the latest news. Since the news is moving so quickly, this is a great way to keep readers updated.

When it comes to publishing shortform, variation—and consistency within that variation—is the key. Once you develop some formats that work for you, stick with them!

Written by

Deputy Editor, GEN. Previously an editor for Topic, Longreads, The New Republic, and Lapham’s Quarterly.

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