Formatting on Medium Is Your Key to the Castle

How to improve your chances of curation and getting accepted into publications

Jackie Dana
Jan 30 · 4 min read

Every day people begin their quest for fame and fortune on Medium. They seek the Holy Grail of Curation and acceptance into the Round Table of Publications. Yet they fail, day after day, and worse, some of them end up in the curation dungeon.

Fear not, fair maidens and courageous knights, I have a magic spell that will instantly transform your articles from shabby peasant fare to the repast of mighty kings and queens.

It’s as simple as this: pay attention to your formatting. (Did you see that coming? Oh what a clever one you are!)

The magic of good formatting

Follow these rules, these rules three:

Rule the first: Case. Your main title should be in title case. Your subtitle, should you choose to use one (hint: use one), should be in sentence case. And your subheaders should also be in sentence case. Do not end any of these with a period.

  • This Is Title Case and Should Be Used for All Titles
  • This is sentence case and should be used for subtitles and subheaders

This may seem really nitpicky but it seems like everyone asking why they never get curated breaks this one rule.

Rule the second: Subheaders. Subheaders help to both break up big blocks of text but also serve as a guide to the reader. They indicate when you’re raising a new point or changing direction. So they are really handy, especially in an article over 500 words.

Screenshot of Medium formatting tools by author

To use subheaders properly, insert the three dots to add space between the sections and the larger T (the same one used for titles) to format them. It’s confusing and somewhat illogical, but don’t use the smaller T for subheaders because the font size really doesn’t stand out much from text in bold.

Rule the third: Paragraphs. Vary their length. No one wants to read a massive wall of text. At the same time, a bunch of one-sentence (or one-word) paragraphs, especially all in a row, will make it look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

So don’t write one sentence that’s super awesome.

And then write another one here.

And then, a third one.

Get the picture?

You do get some artistic license on that last point, but use it wisely and don’t overdo it. (This rule, of course, does not apply to poetry.)

Bonus tips to aid in your quest

  • Don’t go crazy with bold or italic. Use these options wisely, to set off main points or to cause emphasis. The same rule of thumb goes for exclamation marks!
  • If you’re using a bulleted list, be consistent in terms of punctuation and formatting.
  • Get Grammarly and install the extension in Chrome. It will flag any potential grammar and spelling errors right in the Medium editor (or in Google Docs if that’s how you roll). It’s not perfect, and you will often need to ignore the recommendations, but it’s a really handy buddy to take along on your quest.

It’s a trap!

To be fair, curation and publications look at far more than just your formatting. You also need to have a catchy headline, a compelling introduction, and proper English grammar. And you need to proofread your piece. (To help with all of this, it’s not a bad idea to find a Medium buddy who agrees to review all of your stories and in exchange, you review all of theirs!)

But when someone glances at your article, improper/sloppy formatting will stick out just as bad as the smell of a dragon fart in a flower shop.

The quest is a lie

While it’s nice to be curated or added to a big publication, at the end of the day it’s not critical to your success on Medium. And being in so-called “curation jail” or being rejected from a publication doesn’t mean you're being punished.

All it means is that editors and curators have decided, for the time being, that your articles don’t quite meet their standards, or you didn’t follow the proper guidelines for the publication (some don’t allow calls to subscribe to your email list, for example). Getting curated is just like getting a gold star for the day. It’s a virtual high-five that means you’ll get a little (emphasis on little) extra promotion.

You can still be super successful here in terms of views/reads, followers, and income even if you don’t get noticed by the big bad editors. So work on improving your writing (isn’t that at least part of the reason you’re here?) and keep on going.

If you liked these tips, here are a couple of my other articles that might be useful.

Jackie Dana is a freelance writer, editor, and novelist based in St. Louis. Although she has eclectic interests, her focus is on articles designed to help people find their way through an uncertain world. She published her first novel in 2015. In addition to writing, Jackie might be brewing herbal potions or reading a great YA novel. For her latest articles and other tantalizing goodness, be sure to subscribe to her mailing list.

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Jackie Dana

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Freelance writer, editor, & author who believes in the power of dreams. Loves cheese, gardening, & fairies. Former academic advisor. Find me at jackiedana.com.

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