And here’s the kicker: I use Biblical obscenities

Here’s Me, Giving Myself Editorial Advice

How I used all the formatting tips I know to make a mostly content-less story about swearing look good enough to eat

I’m so bad at keeping secrets! That’s why the woman in this photo is holding a finger over her lips shushing me.
Secret tips for formatting online publications. 
(Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash)

To keep track of all the cool formatting things I can do in online publications (including Medium), I grabbed myself by the collar and made myself create this self-referential article that illustrates and explains the best formatting tricks I’ve learned. But rather than lorem-ipsum-ing the text, I compiled a batch of useful information that grizzled editors and writers like myself might want to reference in the future.
(πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: If you thumb down towards the bottom, you’ll be delighted to find the Easter egg at the end: my titillating, space-filling, marginally relevant exposΓ© on dirty words.)

See what I did there?

In this article, I’ve incorporated information about four kinds of formatting, followed by a fifth pre-publishing checklist..all of which happens before we get to the Easter egg. 

Some of the fun formatting tools I use here include:

1. Semi-obvious formatting tips

Here are the how-tos for the usual formatting suspects: Headers, text, and images.
  • A headline. Written in Title Case, meaning the first and the other important words are capitalized.
  • A dek. (which Medium calls a subtitle). It’s in sentence case, and if it gets longer than two lines, the story probably doesn’t get curated. After typing it, I select the entire thing and click the small T icon from the pop-up menu.
  • The hero image. I got the one above royalty-free off Medium’s connection to Unsplash by double-clicking the left mouse button and clicking the πŸ” (magnifying glass icon) in the pop-up window.
  • (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Alternatively, I could use an image of my own, or grab a royalty-free image from AllTheFreeStock, BurstCanvaPexels, Pixabay,, or The Stocks.)
  • (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Or AI it from Canva, DreamStudio/, DeepAI,)
  • (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Upload several images at the same time to create a grid of images.).
  • Formatting images. There are several ways to insert images in text. If the image is sufficiently large, Medium offers — in increasing order of size — the options of wraparound (seen much later in this article), column-width (above), exploding (the video embedded further down), or full bleed (below) display formats. Just click the desired option in the pop-up window after inserting an image.
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Visit Compressor to optimize images so that they load quickly on mobile devices)
  • Cutlines. Caption images, then put the image credits in parentheses.
  • Drop caps. I can drop cap the first letter (or two letters if it’s a two-letter word) by selecting the paragraph and clicking the drop-cap icon on the pop-up window.
  • In-line links. This sample lorem-ipsum link is created one of two ways. I select the text, then click the πŸ”— (hyperlink icon) in the pop-up window to insert the URL. The keyboard shortcut “Ctrl-K” ( ⌘+K) gets the same result.
  • (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: It’s also possible, and SEO-optimizy, to link imported images to my Instagram or other source, using the same technique.)
  • Text formatting. I can italicize or bold (or both) text by selecting it, then using the icons in the pop-up window. The keyboard shortcuts “Ctrl-I” and “Ctrl-B” get the same effect. (Or, in Macinese: ⌘+I and ⌘+B)
  • Section header, main. For main section heads, start a new paragraph and write the header. Select it. Click the large T icon.
  • Section header, sub. It’s not common to have both main headers and sub headers, but if that’s what’s required, make the subheader using the small t icon in the pop-up window.
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: For reasons of my own (ie, I like to copy my Medium-formatted articles into my Blogger site, and this works better for that purpose), I prefer to use the small T icon for main section heads.)
  • Bulleted text, option one. Easy peasy. Start a paragraph with an *(asterisk). It gets bulleted.
  • Bulleted text, option two. Any of these symbols can swap in for a bullet: ▪️, ▫️, ◾️, 💭, ⌑, ■, □, ⇨, 👺, πŸ‘ͺ, ⮊, ⮚, ⌦, πŸ™ͺ, πŸ‘‰, ☝️, ✋, πŸ–, ✍, πŸ”‘, πŸ–‰, ❗️, ❕, ⚪, ⚫️, πŸ”΄, πŸ”΅, ◎, ◉, ●, ☯, πŸ”Έ, πŸ”Ή, ⟡, , ⬥, ❖, ◆, ⬧, πŸ”Ί, πŸ”³, ❎, πŸ”², ✅, ✔️, ☑️, ✔, πŸ—Ή, ❌, ✖️, πŸ—Ά, ⭐️, 🌟, , ☸, ✪, ✵, ✴, ✶, ★, ✦, 🟈, πŸŸ‚, ✹, ☼, ☀️, ⚡️, πŸ—², ❄️, ❄, πŸŒ•, πŸ”…, πŸ’’, πŸ”˜, ❓, ❔, ⌚, πŸ’‘, πŸ”Ž, πŸ”¦, 🚦, ⚽️, πŸ€, 🏢, 🏡, πŸ’š, πŸ”, 🐟, πŸ”¨, πŸ“Œ, πŸ“, πŸ•«, 🍎, 🍏, πŸ‘, πŸ’­, πŸ’‹, πŸ‘„, πŸ™’, ⌘, πŸ•―, πŸ‘“
✔️ ️This is point 1: Short line of text.
✔️ This is point 2: Unfortunately, the text doesn’t hang when it wraps, so it’s not quite the equivalent of bulleted text. 
  • Numbered list. It’s not very impressive, but it does give list items a hanging indent. Start a new paragraph, and type the first number, followed by a full stop. It looks like this:
  1. This is item 1. Here’s some lorem ipsem anyway. I’m typing to fill out this line with random text.
  2. This is item 2. Going to fill out this line with random text as well, to demonstrate the power of the numbered list.
  • New section, option one. The usual method for creating the three-dot section divider, below, is to start a new paragraph, click the ⊕ icon, and select the ⊖ (new part) icon .

  • New section, option two. This pretty little section divider, below, comes courtesy of two minutes on MS Paint and 30 seconds on the free transparency-making tool at LunaPic. I’m a cheapskate that way. And it’s easy to incorporate: I just inserted it as an image between paragraphs. If I were an artist with any skill, I’d turn that little line into something that includes my actual brand logo.

A warning to be consistent with formatting, disguised as a ransom note.
Image by author, with help from The Ransomizer and LunaPic.

2. Less-obvious formatting tips

  • Running head. (Which Medium calls a kicker). That’s the line up top, above the headline. I make it by typing the headline, then backspacing from the beginning until the running head appears. It’s in sentence case. Important: After typing it, I select the whole thing and from the pop-up box I select the small T icon.
Block quotes come from the article…Don’t abuse them
  • Block quotes, part I. Block quotes come from the article. They’re not just random words in a different font. Misusing them causes articles to read like kidnap letters. Don’t abuse the block quotes! To create one, copy a line from the article, insert it as a new paragraph, select it and click the πŸ™Ά (quotation icon) once from the pop-up window to format it.
  • Block quotes, part II. There’s another flavor of block quote. Doesn’t so much matter which one gets used, but good formatting requires consistency. Don’t turn articles into ransom notes by abusing it, either. To make the second kind of block quote, click the πŸ™Ά (quotation icon) twice.
There’s another flavor of block quote. Don’t abuse it, either.
  • Referencing another user. Use an @ sign, then start typing the name. It’ll bring up a pull-down menu. Once inserted in text, it looks like: LauraMaery Gold, LMFT, and users who mouse over the name will see the author’s bio in a pop-up window.
  • Superscript. It's possible to superscript numbers only, by using a carat (^) followed by a digit. Here’s this tip, to the power of 10: Tip¹⁰. 
  • Hard line breaks. Sometimes
    there’s a reason
    for ending lines
    Do it by typing
    VoilΓ .
  • Video embeds. To embed a video, start a new paragraph, and from the ⊕ icon, click the ⏵ icon, then paste the link from Vimeo, Vine, YouTube, or another video hosting service.
  • Twitter and other embeds. Start a new paragraph. From the ⊕ pop-up window, click the <> icon, and insert the URL for the tweet or other information resource. The embed service provider, Embly, facilitates hundreds of services (photos, videos, audios, and services) to be integrated into articles like this one. The result is a clickable image that looks like this:
(Blogger doesn't seem to allow embedded tweets, so never mind)
  • Code insertion.  Insert inline code between two `` (backticks). Example: `<b> bold </b>`
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: To insert a block of code, just start a new paragraph and type ``` (triple backtick).)
<i> This is a code block without much code. </i>

3. Secret punctuation marks

Here are a few more tips about formatting an online publication. But don’t worry. The dirty stuff is still to come. Following are some useful punctuation marks I prefer to cut and paste:
  •  — (The em dash, formed on Medium by typing two consecutive hyphens, and impossible to follow with a space. It’s used for appositives and to 
  • introduce strong pauses.)
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Two em dashes indicate interrupted speech: “I don’t like — —” “Don’t like what?”)
  • – (The en dash, used to indicate a range or to add a prefix to a proper noun.)
  • - (The hyphen, used for compounds.)
  • Currency symbols: £, €, $, ¥ /ε…ƒ (yuan), ¥ (yen), ₽ (ruble), ₹ (rupee), ₩(won), ฿ (baht), ₫ (dong), ₿ (bitcoin). Here’s the full currency symbol list.
  • Math symbols: ÷ (divided by), ± (plus or minus), ≈ (approximately), ≥ (greater than or equal to), ≤ (less than or equal to), ∞ (infinity), ½, ¼, ¾. Here’s the math unicode cheat sheet.
  • Emoji symbols: Created with a colon followed by the emoji name, no space. There’s a mostly-accurate emoji cheat sheet that includes even obscure symbols such as the πŸŒ€(:cyclone), πŸ“ (:memo), 🍟 (:fries), and πŸ“ (:rooster).
  • Wingding symbols: Just cut and paste them from this wingding cheat sheet, to get black and white characters such as: ①, ❾, ☞, and πŸ–°. There are also a few color characters, including: ⌛, ✍, and πŸ“¬.
  • Webding symbols: Yep, there’s a webding cheatsheet as well. Some are colorized (examples: πŸ†, πŸ”, ❓), but most are black and white. A few examples: ✯, πŸ–ˆ, πŸ•Š, πŸ–ƒ, πŸ—², and πŸ•¬.

4. Grabber headlines

Curated stories seem to share some commonalities, namely, the quality of the headlines and subheads. The stories that get the most clicks tend to be about big topics that impact people directly, and tend to pique reader interest by using the following terms:
✯ How to…
✯ Here’s/This is why…
✯ Read this if…
✯ (Keyword) does/is (not) exist, real, a thing, true
✯ It’s (not) alright, okay, a problem if…
✯ Comparisons. How do I compare to…
✯ Confessionals. (The day/time I …)
✯ Five W’s (who, what, when, where, why)
✯ Get smarter, wiser, faster, richer, better, stronger, healthier, more…
✯ attractive, confident, connected, focused, loved, powerful, productive
✯ build, change, create, develop, learn, make
✯ advantages, benefits, reasons
✯ costs, disdvantages, price, problems, warnings
✯ Keyword (potential search term) early in the headline
✯ (keyword) made simple
✯ (keyword) step-by-step
✯ Admit, Always, Do, Drop, Go, Grab, Make, Move, Never, Start, Stop, Turn
✯ current, just-released, new, news, recent, this week, today
✯ closes soon, hot, hurry, new, today only, urgent
✯ The # hacks, habits, ideas, keys, kinds, laws, rules, signs, principles, strategies, techniques, things, tips, tools, tricks, types, ways…
✯ # actual, definitive, genuine, honest, practical, real, true, useful
✯ # dishonest, fake, false, impractical, pointless, useless 
✯ # free, discount, sale, cost-cutting, inexpensive, bottom line
✯ # certain, clever, easy, fast, foolproof, funny, interesting, magical, quick, simple, smart
✯ # crazy, original, odd, sneaky, strange, surprising, unfamiliar, unexpected, unique
✯ # Superlatives. best, cheapest, everybody, greatest, most, quickest, smartest, top
✯ # Diminutives. dumbest, least, nobody, overhyped, slowest, stupidest, worst
✯ action plan, advice, blueprint, guide, model, outline, points, toolkit, script, stages, steps, strategy
✯ cheat sheet, chart, guidebook, graph, help, infographic, list, table
✯ class, course, lab, lesson, seminar, video, webinar, workshop
✯ Q&A, answers, cures, fixes, rules, secrets, solutions
✯ adjust, correct, cure, fix, heal, mend, rebuild, repair, restore, revamp, revive, solve
✯ analysis, data, evaluation, facts, research, science, statistics, study, survey, testing shows…
✯ analysts, experts, researchers, scientists say…
✯ # experts discover, explain, find, learn, prove, say, show…

5. Before hitting the Publish button

Here’s a checklist of twenty-one must-do housekeeping tasks for cleaning up an article for publication:
  1. πŸ—Ή Scan for TKs. While writing, it’s a good productivity technique to insert a reminder to come back to a point later. But before publishing, double check that all the reminders have been addressed.
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: To insert a TK (to come) reminder like the one on that would appear in gold on the left, if you were in edit mode, just type the capitalized letters TK anywhere in a paragraph.)
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip 2: Speed up writing by inserting TKs and roughing out info to be added — graphix, vids, infographics, stats, research, cites.)
  2. πŸ—Ή Consider Series. Should this article be part of a series? Broken up into a Series? Series may be the Next Best Thing, but at the moment, they cannot be curated or monetized. However, they may be effective for driving traffic. Here’s an explanation of Series on Medium, and here’s the link to creating Series.
  3. πŸ—Ή Link to other stores. Embed related stories following main text.
  4. πŸ—Ή Insert CTA. Though Medium discourages it, there’s really no point writing if there’s no Call to Action, something the reader is invited to do after (or while) reading the article. Asking for claps is a no-no, but consider instead anything that will drive a reader to the end goal: Download the freebie, read the book, watch the video, read the similar article, share something on social media, join the mailing list, subscribe to the newsletter.
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Anyplace other than Medium, make the CTA a clickable button. And think about button design when creating the button.)
  5. πŸ—Ή Create Table of Contents. The quick-and-dirty way to make a TOC is to use this tool, though it doesn’t always work for me (which is why there’s no TOC in this article). An alternate tool, which is perhaps beyond my skill set, is found here.
  6. πŸ—Ή Check word count. Ctrl-A (or ⌘+A) displays the word count in the top-left corner of the screen.
  7. πŸ—Ή Scan for plagiarism. Double check that there are no accidentally plagiarised bits of writing in the post using a plagiarism detector such as Plagiarism Detector.
  8. πŸ—Ή Revisit cutlines. Sometimes photo captions get garbled, go missing, or lack a photo credit. Double-check that everything’s ship-shape.
    (πŸ‘“ Bonus tip: Alt text. Be kind to the seeing-impaired (and possibly to search engines) by including alt text describing each image. Alt text is the last option on the pop-up window when you click the image.)
  9. πŸ—Ή Revisit formatting. Drop cap, section dividers, videos, infographics, footnotes, embeds, affiliate acknowledgement, final tag with CTA. 
  10. πŸ—Ή Insert tags. Tags facilitate curation and aid topical searches for your articles. Double check the tags by clicking the three-dot (…) icon, top right, and locating the “change tags” option. List up to five relevant tags for the article.
  11. πŸ—Ή Add a description. To optimize search-engine interest, add a description to the article. Click the three-dot icon, select “change display title/subtitle,” and add a description in the pop-up.
  12. πŸ—Ή Consider featured image. From the three-dot icon, decide which image best represents your article in thumbnails.
  13. πŸ—Ή Edit story URL. Shorten it, remove all the coding clutter, and save it. This option is found from the three-dot icon under the |More Settings|Advanced Settings|Customize Link option.
  14. πŸ—Ή Do one final edit. Mandatory, because if anything isn’t pitch perfect at this point, correcting it will be a pain. Maybe even share the draft link (found under the three-dot icon) with an editor to ensure there are no errors.
  15. πŸ—Ή Shorten URL. Use Tinyurl to create a short version of URL.
  16. πŸ—Ή Blog it. At this point, I would typically copy and paste the entire article into my blog. If I wrote it on Medium following these guidelines, it’s been well formatted, the photos work, and it translates well. Then I’m almost ready to publish on Medium.
  17. πŸ—Ή Add the canonical links. Again from the three-dot icon under the |More Settings|Advanced Settings|Customize Link option, just above the “delete” option at the bottom, is the place to add the canonical link: the URL of the published blog article.
  18. πŸ—Ή Schedule Publish. Yup. Finished. Schedule publication on both blogsite and Medium for optimal time for target readers.
  19. πŸ—Ή Add to publication. Self-publish to your own publication, or leave it alone in the expectation of being invited to, or soliciting an invitation to, publish to another publication. Again, from the three-dot icon, it’s the first option.
  20. πŸ—Ή Schedule Social. Set up cross posts on IG, Twitter, FB, maybe even Quora and Reddit.
  21. πŸ—Ή Tag. Add tag to new story on previous Medium stories on similar topics.

On “bad” language

If there’s anything that distinguishes Medium from more edited publications, it’s perhaps the preponderance of crude language. Here, I examine the backstory of dirty words and consider whether there are better, less naughty, options.
An antique Easter egg with hand-drawn images of a tree, an owl, and hearts
Using an Easter egg to
introduce the topic of
dirty words. Is that
sneaky, hypocritical,
coincidental, or ironic?
(Thank you,

English has lots of categories of words that mean “objectionable words,” though users tend to blur the distinctions. For clarity, the following words are not synonymous:
  • Blasphemy — To blaspheme is to misappropriate the name of Deity for unholy purposes. Its near synonym, profanity, means to use sacred or holy words in common, or vulgar, ways.  
  • Oath — To swear an oath is to commit to a binding course of action, so that to break the oath is to bring damnation on oneself. “I swear, one day, I’m going to…” is an oath. Hence, the Biblical injunction against swearing.
  • Curse — To condemn, or damn. So “Damn you” is a curse, as is “Go to hell.” It means simply to wish ill on another person. (Note that the root of the word “condemn” is damn.)
  • Epithet — To abusively label, or compare another person to, an animal, a villian, or other derogatory term. It also violates Biblical proscriptions to call people fools or otherwise defame them.
  • -Ism — To impugn the humanity of constructed classes of people with badly intended words that debase their character, culture, beliefs, standing, or deviation from the speaker’s social norms. -Ist language can be deliberate, careless, or merely naive but regardless of intent it others individuals who don’t share the speaker’s circumstance and causes division, rather than cohesion. 
  • Salt — Sailors are covered with ocean spray, ie, salty. They’re also infamous users of , well, common, language — the language of the seas or street language, as opposed to courtly, educated, and hence, polite, language.
    Interestingly, the phrase “To swear/curse ‘like a sailor’” means neither to swear nor to curse, but rather to speak in common, impolite ways, ie, to make profligate use of profanities, vulgarities, and obscenities. 

Why I’d Never Want to Be a Man

Until quite recently, indelicate references to sacred thing (profanity), or to bodily functions (obscenity) or bodily parts (vulgarity), were unspeakable in the presence of women, children, royalty and the upper class, and the clergy (ie, the educated class, who simultaneously, and not coincidentally, made up religious leadership). To do so would be to detract from — what one hoped was — their higher purpose of thinking and discoursing about philosophy, communion, duty, fellowship, humanity, holiness, progress, jurisprudence, education, self-improvement, and other meaningful subjects. You know: Everything we write about on Medium
Their generally pointless lives? It must stink to be male.
In contrast, unschooled working class men (ie, the common or vulgar man) on the streets, at sea, at work, or in taverns knew no such strictures (and were thought to have no comparable higher purpose or hope). Because their only function was to feed the machine of commerce and to fund the ongoing existence of their wives and children, they might in one another’s company and without consequence let loose with bawdy, common, street slang for holy things, and for bodily parts and functions — particularly when provoked or impaired. Certainly doing so wouldn’t interfere with what was perceived as their generally pointless lives. Oh, sure, they were expected to return home from time to time, and put in a showing as fathers and husbands, but by and large what they did during waking hours was man the means of production.
It must stink to be male.

About those Biblical swear words

I’ve made a lot of trips around the sun, so I know lots of naughty words. (And yep, this entire discussion qualifies as straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel (Mt 23:24). Don’t care. I’m having fun talking about it.)
But despite the many Biblical injunctions against foul language ( Ex. 20:7, Psalm 39:1, Psalm 141:3, 1Cor. 5:11–13 , Eph 4:29, Eph 5:4, James 1:26, James 3), some of the best bad words actually come from the Bible. My favorites include:
Interestingly, within scripture, none of these words are used trivially or without serious intent — which suggests that intelligent, well-intended people of faith may judiciously use the same language without interrupting their spiritual walk.

The Runners Up

And now we consider words that used to be euphemistic or obvious profanities and vulgarities, though nowadays are barely exclamations. (But as the nuns reprimanded my husband: “God knows what you meant.”). Some that amuse me personally are:
  • Gadzooks (God’s hooks, meaning the nails by which Christ was hung from the cross)
  • Dang, Darned, Heck (near-miss curses)
  • Sheesh, Geez, Gee, Cripes, Gad, Gosh, Lawd (near-miss blasphemies)
  • Bloody (near-miss profanity)
  • Bitch (the verb), Witch (the euphemism), Piss, Pee, Crap, Shite, Shoot, Shiz, Butt, Arse, Ass, Fug, Freaking, Frickin’, Fudge, Flip, Fetch, Suck, Screw (Thank you, one and all, for being merely semi-vulgarities.)
Interestingly, for every vulgarity, there is a range of perhaps equivalent words that carry decreasing levels of cringe. From the vulgar f**k to the impolite screw to the informal shag to the formal intercourse to the medical coitus, speakers and writers get to choose how they offend sensibilities and violate social mores.

And so…

Christian writer Wayne Jackson, after assessing Biblical commentary on profane speech, beautifully concludes that it is the obligation of good people to keep their speech pure. Reviling, abusing, false or trivial swearing, cursing, blasphemy, and profanity all defile the tongue and the mind. Perhaps, one must conclude, we communicate best when we communicate with kindness— which kindness includes the small effort to avoid pointlessly causing others to cringe.

While this article was created solely as an exercise in formatting Medium articles, its author invites readers to follow her there or at her web home, The Relationship Institute, if they’re interested in her usual writing endeavor: Helping couples and other people in relationships communicate better. 

This story is simultaneously published on Medium.