The Innovation Submission and Design Guide

How to become a writer on The Innovation — Grammar, design, & formatting tips, what to submit, and what to skip

Esat Artug
May 28 · 15 min read
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Photo by jules a. on Unsplash

“The Innovation” is a newly established publication and we are looking for eager, passionate writers.

This guide will give you all the possible steps you can take to ensure your article is a great fit for The Innovation.

We’ll cover grammar, formatting, what topics we’re looking for, and some frequently asked questions. Let’s begin.

  1. Grammar
  2. Formatting
  3. What to Avoid
  4. What to Submit
  5. Profile and CTAs
  6. How to Submit
  7. Curation
  8. FAQs

1. Grammar

In The Innovation, we ensure your piece complies with our internal style guide in terms of grammar and formatting. This allows us to have a uniform quality standard for every piece we publish.

We understand many of our authors are not English native speakers, and your article needn’t arrive in perfect English to be accepted, but there are two advantages to doing a basic grammar check yourself before submitting:

  1. The less time we need to edit your article, the faster we can publish it.
  2. The less time we need to edit articles overall, the more articles we can run in any given month — including yours.

There is no need to complicate this step. A free tool like Grammarly will do.

One more point, whether you write in British English or American English, we’ll retain the respective spellings throughout the piece, but try to be consistent in one or the other.

2. Formatting

Medium has published a great guide on how to format your title.

At The Innovation, the sequence of the three first element the reader sees when opening your article is this: (1) Title, (2) Subtitle, (3) Cover Image

Please keep them in the right order.

Here is an example of the right sequence of title, subtitle, and cover image we’re looking for:

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Image by Author

Only the first line of the story is considered the title. Select the text and click the large “T” icon to format the title.

Capitalize your title, meaning minor words are typed in lower case with all major words being capitalized

Write quality headlines.

Eight out of ten people will read a headline, yet only 20% will read the rest. Why? Because almost all of them are either just so boring, way too formulaic, or stuffed with exact match keywords.

  • Make your headline benefit-driven for your target audience
  • Don’t confuse your readers
  • Take advantage of the curious human mind

Here are some tips from Medium:

  • Be specific. Don’t leave the reader to guess what your piece is about.
  • Spark interest. Engage the reader’s interest by highlighting what’s unique about your piece.
  • Be clear. Avoid confusing terms, general statements, or “insider” jargon.
  • Be clean. Watch out for typos in your headlines and please don’t use profanity.
  • Go for reads, not clicks. Steer clear of clickbait headlines — tropes like “one weird thing” or using “this/that” to get the reader to click. Make sure your story backs up the claim in the headline.
  • Bigger is not better. Make sure the caps lock is off. No all-caps titles.

Here are a few great headline examples:

  • How To Become Ridiculously Self-Aware In 20 Minutes
  • How to Figure Out What the Hell You Want to Do With Your Life
  • 9 Business Lessons I Learned Making $100,000 Online in the Past 3 Years
  • My Powerful 1-Hour Routine for Quick Success on Medium
  • Elon Musk Wants You To Merge With Your Technology

Here are a few not-so-great headlines:

  • On Headlines
  • Mom
  • To Be a Perfect Person, Do This One Simple Thing

Writing directly below the title is considered the subtitle. Select the text and click the small “T” icon to format the subtitle.

For your subtitle, use normal sentence case: Only capitalize the first word and any proper nouns

Here is an example of a title and subtitle format we’re looking for:

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Image by Author
  • Please do NOT include a link in the title and subtitle
  • Please do NOT write your title and subtitle with all capital letters
  • Submissions must have a clear and descriptive title and subtitle — they’re the first thing a user sees when viewing a story.
  • Please use verbs in their direct form in titles, avoid present continuous where possible
  • Please keep your title, subtitle, and cover image in the right order
  • You can use Title Case Converter to adjust titles and subtitles

Note: Changing a title or subtitle in the content of an article does not ensure it updates the SEO title and description. Be sure to update in both places. This article helps clarify Medium’s SEO options and settings.

In The Innovation, all stories have a cover image that follows the title and subtitle.

Images can help improve the readability of a story — especially feature images. They can make the story more inviting.

Always include a high-resolution image at the top of a story under your headline. This has the following benefits:

  1. When people share your story on Facebook and Twitter, it will be more prominent in news feeds, making people more likely to click on it.
  2. It will look better in Medium’s own news feeds.
  3. Humans are visual creatures and click on images.

Medium offers four different image widths. Note that these will all look the same on mobile.

Most of the time, you’ll want to stick with column width:

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

If you have a chart that is hard to read when it’s small, go bigger:

And if you’re really proud of an image, or if it’s chock full of interesting data, go full-bleed:

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

… and then there’s side straddle. Don’t use this size at all, because it makes the text less comfortable to read.

It’s also awkward when you’re done talking about the photo and your text is still pushed to the side.

Yeah. I’m still stuck over here.

Technically as a writer, you are liable for copyright infringement, and Medium is not. The simplest way to attribute an image is to put the words “Image credit” below an image and link this text to its original source.

When you use an image, make sure you have the right to use it. If you are using an image you don’t have the rights to, that’s a copyright violation and disqualifies your story from curation.

All images in your article must show proper attribution to their respective source. Here is an example:

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Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

Please credit all images properly as “Photo by,” “Image via” or otherwise doesn’t matter as much as naming the actual source of the image and linking to it.

Whenever you’re using your own pictures, simply add “Image by Author, Picture by Author, Image Courtesy of the Author, or Screenshot by Author” as the caption.

In some cases, this might not prove enough for an image right holder. In practice, though, most magazines and movie studios have better things to do than send cease and desist letters to people who merely attributed their copyrighted images.

If you’re looking for images you can safely use without permission, check out Pexels, Unsplash, or search Google for images labeled for re-use.

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A Google image search query with the “Labeled for reuse” option selected.
  • Please make sure you actually have permission to use the image
  • Always add images in full resolution.
  • Stick with a simple, relevant image that relates to the main message or core theme of your post.
  • All images should be as wide as the text body of your article and ideally offer bigger sizes when you click on them in the editor
  • Don’t use the widescreen or expanded formatting for images — keep them all in body-width, as shown in the example:
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Image by Author

When possible, submissions should be split into well-organized sections using correctly formatted section headings.

Section headings should be written in sentence case.

Section headings should use Medium’s largest title option. The larger “T” icon.

Every blog platform has settings for headings. When you’re composing your content, they’ll be one of the formatting options above the text box. If they aren’t called “Heading 1,” “Heading 2,” etc., they’ll probably be labeled with the abbreviations “H1,” “H2,” “H3,” etc.

In every post, you should only have one “Heading 1,″ your post title. Use “Heading 2” for the main subheadings that support the title of your post. If you use “Heading 3,” those subheadings should support the “Heading 2” topics they’re under.

Here’s an outline for properly formatted headings:

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Image by Author

On a draft or a published post, select the text you want to comment on. Click the lock icon from the pop-up toolbar. Write your note. If you do not see this option in the toolbar, it is because the author has turned off private notes.

Tip: When you leave a note, it will be visible to you, the author of the post, and if the post is in a publication, the editors of the publication will also be able to see the note.

Bullet Points — To begin a bulleted list, go to a new line, type in a dash (-) or asterisk (*), and press Space. Next, you start typing your first item. Once you hit Enter on your keyboard, the list will be reformatted for you automatically.

Numbered List — To begin a numbered list, go to a new line, type in 1. (numeral one, period), and press the space bar on your keyboard. The list will automatically add subsequent numbers when you hit Enter on the keyboard.

Type “@” and then the name of the person you want to mention. Mentioning someone will link to their profile and send them a notification when you publish.

This text helps screen-reading tools describe images to visually impaired readers and allows search engines to better crawl and rank your website.

Whether or not you perform SEO for your Medium articles, optimizing your article’s image alt text is your ticket to creating a better user experience for your visitors, no matter how they first found you.

How to Add Alt Text to Your Medium Article Images:

  1. For an existing article, click the “edit story” tab in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Click on the image you wish to add alt text to. Click on the “Alt-text” button.
  3. Write a brief description of this image for readers with visual impairments or to optimize SEO.
  4. Click the “save” button and you are done.

You can set a focal point on your image to crop your images better for social media thumbnails and preview images on Medium.

How to Set a Focal Point on Your Featured Image:

  1. Hold Alt / Opt.
  2. Click on the image in the place where you want your focal point to be.
  3. The resulting green circle will serve as a focal point for automatic image cropping that appears in post listings and previews around the site.

3. What to Avoid

We prefer to focus on more evergreen advice.

We don’t want generic steps and tips the reader can’t copy such as “define your target audience, be authentic, use data, set a goal, and so on.”

Please provide detailed instructions the reader can follow to implement this step in their own work and business.

Please provide a specific, tangible example of a business or individual who did implement this step and did it well (or badly), and thus serves as instruction on what to do (or what not to).

We know providing these is hard, but that’s exactly what makes them valuable. Crafting good instructions takes work because you either have to test the advice, find someone who did, or do a lot of research.

If you do this work, however, we’re much more likely to accept your article.

And, if you have stories about politics, religion, sex, or any other potentially controversial subjects, we recommend that you find another home for these pieces.

4. What to Submit

The Innovation is all about ideas and sharing them with others. We welcome stories surrounding entrepreneurship, self-improvement, business, creativity, design thinking, personal essays, and other topics.

If you have stories about politics, religion, sex, or any other potentially controversial subjects, we recommend that you find another home for these pieces.

The easiest way to develop a great gut feeling for what you should submit to The Innovation is to read a lot. It might sound obvious, but a lot of our submissions show people don’t do it.

Here’s an excerpt from the broad range of topics we cover and always love to see more on.

  • Entrepreneurship case studies
  • Startup engagement
  • Corporate entrepreneurship
  • Business model
  • Business model innovation
  • Growth stories
  • Intrapreneurship
  • Innovation
  • Open innovation
  • Sustainability
  • Circular economy
  • Design thinking
  • Creativity
  • Design thinking applications and tools
  • Productivity
  • Success, Inspiration, Motivation
  • Money, Finance

As long as your story is related to entrepreneurship, innovation creativity, sustainability, business, productivity, soft skills, and design thinking, there are no boundaries on what you can cover.

  1. The case study. This is usually a complete, first-person account of an experience or event you were a part of.
  2. The breakdown. This type of post covers a resource, ad, or campaign element by element, either chronologically or sequentially. By dissect what’s good and bad about each one, the reader can then piece together a similar result themselves.
  3. The analysis. A deep dive into selected, relevant parts of an innovation, design thinking, sustainability effort, sometimes through the lens of a certain framework. This could be heavily backed with data or more story-driven.
  4. How-to tutorials in detailed steps: A real result with detailed, clear to follow instructions.

5. Profile and CTAs

Submissions must comply with Medium’s Rules, Ad-Free Policy, Content Guidelines, and Curation Guidelines.

Once you’ve done the hard part — writing something that matters — all you have to do is format your work and submit it to The Innovation. Here are some final things to look at before doing so.

Here are some tips for the ideal profile. Include your full name, some relevant information about yourself, a clear picture of your face, and a link to anything you might want to promote to your readers, like your website, a book, or one of your social media channels.

Submissions must not be spammy.

Writers may promote their book, blog, service, tool, or other product with a short text link at the bottom of the story.

  • Per Medium’s best practices: “Avoid CTAs. Readers tell us that they find repeated calls to action — to sign up for a newsletter, to clap — annoying.”
  • It is okay to reference your other work in your article where relevant.

6. How to Submit

If you’re contributing to a publication, you can submit your stories to the publication. Your story can be published only in one publication at a time.

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Image by Medium
  1. Open the story you want to submit. Click the three-dot button at the top, then Edit story to enter the edit mode.
  2. In the edit mode, click the three-dot button in the top-right corner of the page to open your story settings.
  3. Select Add to the publication from the dropdown list.
  4. Choose the publication you intend to submit to and click Save.
  5. Then your story will be immediately submitted to the publication editors for review. The editors of that publication will have a chance to review your draft. Readers will not see your story in the publication until it is reviewed and added to the publication.

Note: To confirm that a story has been submitted to a publication, the writer must ensure that when in edit mode, the top-left corner of the story says “Submitted draft”. If the top-left corner says “Not yet submitted”, then the post is not yet submitted to the publication. In that case, the writer must first click the “Ready to submit?” button, followed by “Submit to publication.”

If you want to be a writer for The Innovation, please leave a comment below “I want to be a writer”.

We accept ONLY drafts. (UPDATED — 23rd of November)

If a submission is not yet ready for publication, we’ll leave a private note explaining why. In some cases, submissions can be reworked and resubmitted. Do not resubmit stories without correcting the indicated issues.

We reserve the right to make minor changes to your submission without notice. Possible changes include rewriting a title or subtitle, reformatting section headings and paragraphs, and removing undisclosed affiliate links. We make these minor changes in lieu of rejecting a submission.

7. Distribution

What does it mean to be distributed? When a story is distributed, it becomes eligible to be distributed to readers across Medium surfaces — on the homepage, on the topic pages, in Medium app, in Medium’s Daily Digest newsletter, and in other emails — and shared via Medium’s recommendation system.

According to Medium, these are the 5 of the most common problems for curation:

  1. Non-quality headlines — not specific, not clear, not clean
  2. Asking for claps
  3. Not having rights to use the image
  4. Medium rules violations
  5. Request for donation

To learn more about curation, you can check Medium’s article about curation.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

My article has been featured by Medium. Can I add it to The Innovation as well?

Absolutely yes. When you add your story to a publication, you are adding a whole new audience to it (that publication’s followers). Your story will still be promoted by Medium on its homepage and topic pages, in addition to the publication and the publication’s social channels.

Can I add my article to two publications?

Medium only allows articles to be published to one publication at a time. If your article has been published with a different publication, we are not allowed to request it to The Innovation.

Are you going to put my article behind a paywall?

Medium has recently launched a Partner Program that authors can join if they are interested in earning money from their content. Ultimately, this decision is made by you, the author, and we are not allowed to change your settings.

My story was not curated. Why is that?

Curation depends on Medium’s curators. To increase your chances to get curated you can visit this link.

9. Questions

I hope this style guide has been helpful.

We look forward to seeing your work, and if you have any questions, just leave a response below.

Thanks and have fun writing for The Innovation!

If you feel stuck and cannot generate any ideas, here are 5 tools that will help you to generate more writing ideas:

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Esat Artug

Written by

Digital Marketing & Growth Consultant | Creative Content Creator & Strategist | Double MSc. @ SGH Warsaw & TU Berlin in Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

Esat Artug

Written by

Digital Marketing & Growth Consultant | Creative Content Creator & Strategist | Double MSc. @ SGH Warsaw & TU Berlin in Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

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