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When Medium co-founder Ev Williams announced the beta launch of his new blog-publishing platform in 2012 he described it as "a new place on the internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends".

As one of the original brains behind Twitter, an accolade he shares with Medium's other founder, Biz Stone, it was only natural Williams should draw a comparison between the two platforms.

However, since starting with a small group of invite-only users, Medium has carved out a reputation as a space for simple-yet-beautiful collaborative publishing.

Three years since launch, it has become the go-to platform for smart online publishing: used regularly by the likes of Storyful and De Correspondent for announcements or ideas, the official home of First Look Media's Reportedly, and populated by countless digital ideologues.

Here's how it works.

Getting started

There are two ways to start writing on Medium. One is to use the 'Write a story' button in the top right of the screen once you've logged in. The other is to use the homepage editor and start typing into the space at the top of the page.

Neither way is better than the other, but the second is a recently introduced feature to encourage shorter stories and faster publishing, with stripped-down formatting options and the ability to publish a story in just one click.

This guide will focus on the full-screen editor accessible via the button in the top-right corner.

Medium start writing
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Titles and cover images

Titles aren't essential on Medium but if you want to use one, type it straight into the 'Title' box in the story editor and select the text to change the font size or alignment.

As you type, you'll see an ellipsis appear to the left of the your title for adding an optional cover image to your story. The ideal dimensions for this are 1400 x 1120 pixels.

You can choose whether your title appears closer to the top or bottom of your cover image by using the 'delete' and 'return' keys on your keyboard.

Medium - add a title
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Writing and editing

Your story will auto-save every few seconds as you write, leaving you to get on with the most important part – getting those words down.

All formatting and alignment options are available when you select text, and you can add a bulleted list by typing a dash or asterisk, writing your first point and hitting return. To create a numbered list, use a "1" followed by a full-stop instead of a dash.

To see previously saved versions of your piece, there's an 'Edit' and 'History' option in the top right corner of the story editor.

Medium - text formatting
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Adding images

As you write, you'll notice a plus sign appear whenever you hit the return key. Hover over it and four multimedia options will appear: add a photo; add a video; add an embed code; add a new chapter or 'part'.

Medium - adding images
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Medium recommends using .jpg files for all images within your story. To ensure images look good whatever device your story is being viewed on, it also advises "using an image with a focal point in the middle third of the photo".

To make this easier, Medium's Nick Fisher has created a downloadable template of how this should look.

As well as cover photos, Medium supports six different image styles for inline images, from a small inset to the left of your text to full width.

Full-width images have the same dimensions as a cover image (1400 x 1120 pixels), and Medium recommends a 900 pixels width on inline images to make sure they display across devices, but they can be whatever length you like. Experiment to see which image styles work best with your story and vary them to hold the reader's interest.

You can add a caption to your image by clicking it so that a green border appears. To remove an image, simply select it and hit the delete key on your keyboard. You can also add a link to an image by clicking it and pressing 'Command' and 'K' on Mac or 'Control' and 'K' on PC.

You can also add a grid of images to your story by selecting multiple images using the picture upload tool. Bear in mind that the last image you select will be the first to appear within the grid.

Medium - image grid
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Adding video and other multimedia

To add a video to your story, simply copy and paste a link from YouTube, Vimeo or Vine into Medium. Click the player to choose alignment or add a caption.

Note that embedded video will not play until your story is published.

The embed code option "<>" also allows you to add media from other sites such as Twitter and Instagram.

You can also divide up longer sections of text by inserting a break using the 'add a part' option (which looks like this "--"), sometimes used to make paragraphs stand out or signpost a change of subject.

Sharing drafts

Medium is designed for collaborative writing, with a 'share draft' button to get feedback from others before publishing.

People can leave you feedback notes by selecting the section of text they wish to comment on and clicking the plus button "+" that appears. Notes can be public or private, and you can reply to them if you wish.

You can also use notes to leave yourself reminders about a story you are in the process of working on.

Medium - adding a comment
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So you've written your story and are ready to share it with the world, or maybe just a few select people.

Once you hit 'Publish' you'll get the listing editor which affects how your story will appear across Medium streams for top stories, staff picks and tag pages (more on those later). 

Editing your title and/or subtitle in this section will not affect your actual story, so consider experimenting with different wording from your original piece to really make your story stand out.

Note: Although you do not need to include a title in your actual story, you do need one for it to appear in story streams.

In the listing editor you can also add up to three tags to your story to make it more discoverable. Your story will then appear in the 'Latest' tab on the relevant tag page, and if it gets a lot of 'Recommendations' from other readers it will be upgraded to the 'Top' tab.

Medium - listing editor
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If you want to publish your story but don't want it to be discoverable across Medium, you can use unlisted publishing.

These stories will only be viewable to anyone who has the direct link, and your followers will not be notified that you've published something.

Simply select 'unlisted' in the listing editor right before the point of publishing.

A couple of weeks ago Medium announced a major update to its iOS app, allowing users to write and publish stories from their iPhone or iPad. However, some features, such as sharing and editing drafts, are not yet available for mobile.

Sharing your story

You can share your story to Twitter, Facebook or email using the 'Share' icon at the bottom of the screen. Alternatively, highlight a section of text and click the Twitter icon to generate a text screenshot which is automatically attached to a tweet.

You can also embed your Medium story into an existing website using the down arrow which appears next to the 'Share' button.

Another option is to add your story to a Publication, essentially a collection of stories around a particular topic of theme which have custom layout options. Some news outlets, such as, are using Publications as a home for their reporting.

You must be an invited writer to submit a story to a Publication, or you can create your own by clicking your avatar in the top right of the screen and clicking 'Publications', then 'New Publication'.

Medium Publications
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Do you have any more tips for using Medium? Or writers on the platform you would recommend? Feel free to let other readers know in the comments below.

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