Your article image should be one to two levels of abstraction from what your article is about. It should be like an image of what the reader might dream about after reading your article. It’s a fantasy. I mean, who uses a typewriter? (Pixabay)

A Medium article title should be long and descriptive

You can even give away the punchline, because otherwise it may not be read

In your first couple of sentences, summarize what you’re about to say. Ideally, what you tell the reader gives them more questions than answers.

We’re already on a new paragraph, because short paragraphs are better. They’re easier to read. About now, we’re expanding upon the above paragraph.

Now, we can go into a longer paragraph. Having a longer paragraph every once in awhile gives you a chance to explain things more to readers who don’t like long paragraphs. If you got them this far, they might read a longer paragraph.

You’ve just presented some kind of counterintuitive way of thinking, but you had to take a break (those three dots above). Some people will tell you you should have a bunch of headers throughout your article, but Hemingway didn’t need headers, so fuck that.

This is the part of the article where you’re tempted to go off on a bunch of tangents – to hedge your point-of-view to save face, or to acknowledge the edge cases. This will weaken your article, so don’t do it. Don’t let your mind’s images of commenters that didn’t read the article or don’t understand economy of words cause you to explain away a bunch of stuff. Your article will get long, and then nobody will read it.

It’s okay if every detail isn’t explained to the nth degree, and it’s okay if someone disagrees with something you say. Disagreement is not law. It’s easy to forget that these days.

About now, the reader is ready for some tactical take-aways, or lessons learned. Yes, Hemingway didn’t need bullets (except in the Army), but you have a lot to say, and you need to wrap it up in about 500 words.

  • Internet readers love bullets. I use them if my article has the tactical take-aways, but I actually like the challenge of writing a wall of text (with a couple three-dot breakers), and trying to use words to get my article read.
  • You don’t want too many. And you don’t want too few. Two bullets: why did you bother with bullets? Seven bullets: now my whole screen is riddled with bullets.
  • The same goes with the length of the explanations you have in your bullets. The above bullets are a just a few lines long. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you want to write multiple paragraphs worth of stuff under one bullet. Good writing is about learning to shut up.

This is the part where everything gets tied up in a bow. Your article — whether it is about the time someone said something filthy to you on the street, or the time you won your middle school’s spelling be — is not about you. It is about your reader, and society at large. As they read the words, they will attach them to their own internal monologue and their own life experiences — and that’s the only way there is a hope they will read the next word.

That, or short paragraphs.

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