A friend asked me to help him write his first article on medium.com. So I did my research and read everything I could find on how to write for Medium. I may be oversimplifying, but I think not. My research can be synthesized into three guidelines:
- Keep your writing simple
- Write to a specific audience
- Engage as an author
By keeping your writing simple, I mean:
- 6th grade reading level (yes, middle school)
- 12-15 words per sentence (at least aim for this)
- an average reading time of 6-7 minutes (if needed)
While 6th grade may seem too low, it’s not. Make your writing welcoming and approachable to all. A 6-7 minute read is about 1200 words – the equivalent of a 5-page essay. We live in a busy world and time is precious. So, if you want someone to read your “essay”, make it easy to read. And the more people you reach, the louder your message. Given the global politics of 2016, we now know that simple messages get through the noise.
Don’t try to reach everyone: know your audience. It’s old advice but it’s true. So, while using simple and straight forward language, do two things:
- offer a fresh perspective, and
- give your reader something of value.
They are giving you their time, and you return the favor with something of value. So, pick your audience, offer your unique perspective, and make it worth their while.
And once you’ve published your unique and valuable post, engage with your audience. Engage by doing two things:
- set up your profile, and
- close the article with an invitation to comment, preferably with a genuine question for your reader.
Authenticity is audible. Staying in touch with your audience and responding to comments will keep you and your readers engaged until the next post. And so it goes.
I’ll admit that I don’t focus on some important details but, at the risk of staring the obvious:
- your title, opening lines, and conclusion need to be strong
- make it flawless. If you can’t do this, have someone else do it for you
- build your audience.
This last item might be the topic of my next post: how to find & build your audience. If you’ve found me, then maybe it’s working.
In publishing this, I am following some of my own advice: something of value, delivered in an approachable style, directed at an audience of new publishers on Medium, with a question posed at the end. And I am also ignoring some of my advice: this is not a 6-7 read, but then, it doesn’t need to be, so the added value is that I’m saving you time.
But, if what you are writing about takes more than 1000 words to explain, then do it. Explaining something complex can take time. And research shows, that the most oft-forwarded articles on Medium are 6-7 minute reads. My guess, is that this is where the value is: tackling complex issues.
Please let me know if this was helpful. And I’d love to hear you, new and veteran writers, about your experiences publishing on Medium and suggestions for building your audience on Medium.