Substack Formatting. How to format your Substack article… | by Casey Botticello | Substack Writing | Medium

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Substack Formatting

How to format your Substack article using the Substack editor

Casey Botticello
Mar 27, 2020 · 10 min read

Substack is an amazing platform, in large part thanks to its simple yet effective article editor/formatting tool.

However, for new writers on Substack, there is usually a bit of a learning curve.

Even though Substack makes creating a subscription newsletter easy, the writer is still largely responsible for the article formatting and design.

Below is a quick guide to the article formatting options included in the Substack editor or elsewhere on the website.

To write a post on Substack, click on on the Dashboard tab in the upper right hand corner of your Substack account:

Then click on your posts tab, and finally click on the button labeled New Post.

When you write a post on Substack, you will see a blank page, with the following toolbar/editor at the top of the page:

substack formatting, substack tutorial, substack help, what is substack, how to start a newsletter on substack, substack logo
substack formatting, substack tutorial, substack help, what is substack, how to start a newsletter on substack, substack logosubstack formatting, substack tutorial, substack help, what is substack, how to start a newsletter on substack, substack logo
Source: Substack Writing

Some of of these inputs are fairly self-explanatory (Title) but some are not (Buttons/Style).

Below is a diagram of the Substack editor, for your reference, along with a look at what each function does and how it can be utilized to make your articles look amazing.

Set a preamble for emails

If you click on the “Set a preamble for emails” button, you will see the following format customization options:

substack formatting, substack email, substack email preamble, substack custom domain, substack image size, is substack free
Source: Substack Writing

If you click on the “Upload” button, you can upload an image which will be the featured image at the top of your email newsletters.

As an example, below is the banner image from my Substack publication, Blogging Guide:

blogging guide banner, substack blogging guide, substack guide, substack email preamble banner, substack banner, substack
blogging guide banner, substack blogging guide, substack guide, substack email preamble banner, substack banner, substackblogging guide banner, substack blogging guide, substack guide, substack email preamble banner, substack banner, substack

Adding a banner is an easy way to add flair to your newsletter. It is also a good opportunity to build your brand awareness by utilizing any logos, colors, or images associated with your newsletter.

Once you upload a banner image, the image will be applied to all subsequent posts (until you press the remove button).

The other three options allow you to insert text, images, or other content to your newsletter, based on who is receiving it. This allows you to personalize your message, which is useful when you have differing audiences (i.e. paying subscriber and free subscribers).

The three custom intros to emails that you can create are:

  • Public posts sent to free signup
  • Public posts sent to paying subscribers
  • Subscribers-only posts

Title and Subtitle

substack formatting, substack title, substack subtitle, substack header, substack vs medium, substack tutorial, substack blog
substack formatting, substack title, substack subtitle, substack header, substack vs medium, substack tutorial, substack blogsubstack formatting, substack title, substack subtitle, substack header, substack vs medium, substack tutorial, substack blog

Substack allows you to customize the title and subtitle of a newsletter headline (or an online post).

Titles and subtitles can include numbers, letters, or symbols.

Bold | Italics | Code | Hyperlink | Image | Divider Line

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack article, substack ux

Bold

Pressing the letter “B” icon will create bold text:

substack formatting, substack editor formatting, substack bold, substack bolded, substack tips, substack vs tinyletter
substack formatting, substack editor formatting, substack bold, substack bolded, substack tips, substack vs tinylettersubstack formatting, substack editor formatting, substack bold, substack bolded, substack tips, substack vs tinyletter

Italics

Pressing the letter “I” icon will create italicized text:

substack formatting, substack embed, substack newsletter, substack italics, how to italicize text on substack, substack tips
substack formatting, substack embed, substack newsletter, substack italics, how to italicize text on substack, substack tipssubstack formatting, substack embed, substack newsletter, substack italics, how to italicize text on substack, substack tips

Toggle The Code

Pressing the “<>” icon will toggle the text, rendering it in code format:

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack code font, substack code, substack code text, substack guide
substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack code font, substack code, substack code text, substack guidesubstack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack code font, substack code, substack code text, substack guide

Hyperlink

Pressing the “🔗” icon will toggle the

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review
substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack reviewsubstack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review

Image

Pressing the insert image icon will allow you to upload an image. This will also work for inserting GIFs, although like many publishing platforms, Substack can be slow when it comes to uploading GIFS (or it may take a few attempts to render the image properly).

substack formatting, substack tutorial, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack blogger, substack writer
substack formatting, substack tutorial, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack blogger, substack writersubstack formatting, substack tutorial, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack blogger, substack writer

Horizontal Dividing Line

Pressing the “horizontal dividing rule” button will insert a subtle, yet effective, horizontal line that acts as a page divider or separator.

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review
substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack reviewsubstack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review

Here is an example of the Divider Line used in an article:

substack formatting, substack writing, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review
substack formatting, substack writing, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack reviewsubstack formatting, substack writing, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review

Buttons

One of the most distinctive features of the Substack editor, is its buttons feature. If you click on the buttons icon, a drop down menu will appear, with the following options:

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack vs mailchimp, substack blog
substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack vs mailchimp, substack blogsubstack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, substack vs mailchimp, substack blog

Subscribe Now — Inserts plain button labeled Subscribe Now. This button will take readers to the landing page of your publication where they can view the free vs. paid options.

Sample Button:

substack button, substack review, substack design, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newsletter
substack button, substack review, substack design, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newslettersubstack button, substack review, substack design, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newsletter

Landing Page:

substack formatting, substack embed, substack landing page, substack writing, substack email list, substack paid post
substack formatting, substack embed, substack landing page, substack writing, substack email list, substack paid postsubstack formatting, substack embed, substack landing page, substack writing, substack email list, substack paid post

Special Offer — Inserts a button which promotes a discount or promotion. You must create a special offer before creating this button.

To create a special offer, click the settings button, located in the upper right hand corner of your Substack account. Then scroll down to section and click the manage button next to the Special offers section.

substack button, substack review, substack preview, substack monthly subscription, making money substack, substack account
substack button, substack review, substack preview, substack monthly subscription, making money substack, substack accountsubstack button, substack review, substack preview, substack monthly subscription, making money substack, substack account

Once you have created a special offer, you can click on the special offer button, select your special offer (you can have more than one):

substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review
substack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack reviewsubstack formatting, substack embed, substack faq, substack editor, substack newsletter, what is substack, substack review

This will produce a custom button, as seen below:

substack button, substack special offer, substack button design, adding button substack article, substack ux, substack promo
substack button, substack special offer, substack button design, adding button substack article, substack ux, substack promosubstack button, substack special offer, substack button design, adding button substack article, substack ux, substack promo

Give a gift subscription — This allows publishers to insert button, allowing readers to gift a subscription to your publication.

Sample Button:

substack gift subscription button, substack logo, substack button, substack ux, substack design, substack gift subscription
substack gift subscription button, substack logo, substack button, substack ux, substack design, substack gift subscriptionsubstack gift subscription button, substack logo, substack button, substack ux, substack design, substack gift subscription

View comments — If you are writing an article that may attract many comments, and you want to direct readers to the comments section (which is normally discretely displayed at the bottom of an article), the view comments button is useful. When you insert this button into your article, readers who click it will be able to view a full page layout comments section, making the comments easier to read.

Sample Button:

substack comments, substack comments button, substack comment section, substack replies, substack responses
substack comments, substack comments button, substack comment section, substack replies, substack responsessubstack comments, substack comments button, substack comment section, substack replies, substack responses

Full Page Comments Section:

substack button, substack comments, substack writing, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack writer
substack button, substack comments, substack writing, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack writersubstack button, substack comments, substack writing, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack writer

Share this post — Inserting the share this post button, will produce a button that, when clicked, will offer readers easy optionsto share a newsletter post on social media.

Sample Button:

Pop-Up Window When Share Button is Clicked:

substack button, how to make money on substack, substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack multiple newsletters
substack button, how to make money on substack, substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack multiple newsletterssubstack button, how to make money on substack, substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack multiple newsletters

Share Medium Blogging Guide’s Newsletter — This button creates a similar button to the one above. The only difference is this promotes the entire newsletter as opposed to a single article.

Custom Button —The custom button is a button where you can easily customize the button text and customize the hyperlink where the button will send readers, when they click it. This can be useful for directing readers to crucial resources, featured articles, or your external websites.

substack button, substack review, substack designer, substack custom button, how to add button to substack newsletter
substack button, substack review, substack designer, substack custom button, how to add button to substack newslettersubstack button, substack review, substack designer, substack custom button, how to add button to substack newsletter

Style

The style button in the Substack editor controls the different levels of HTML headings you can create in your articles. HTML defines six levels of headings. A heading element implies all the font changes, paragraph breaks before and after, and any white space necessary to render the heading. The heading elements are H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 with H1 being the highest (or most important) level and H6 the least. For example:

Search engines use the headings to index the structure and content of your web pages. More importantly in the context of newsletters, users often skim a page by its headings. It is important to use headings to show the document structure.

substack button, substack style, substack design, substack style button, substack heading button, substack heading
substack button, substack style, substack design, substack style button, substack heading button, substack headingsubstack button, substack style, substack design, substack style button, substack heading button, substack heading

As an example, here is an article with multiple heading elements:

search substack, substack screenshot, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newsletter
search substack, substack screenshot, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newslettersearch substack, substack screenshot, what is substack, how to create substack newsletter, substack newsletter

Custom Lists

Substack allows for the creation of two types of auto-formatted lists — bulleted and numbered.

substack list icon, substack design, substack numbered list
substack list icon, substack design, substack numbered listsubstack list icon, substack design, substack numbered list

Bulleted List

To create a bulleted list, click on the bullet list icon in the Substack editor:

substack bullet list, substack create a list, create a list on substack, substack formatting, substack newsletter formatting
substack bullet list, substack create a list, create a list on substack, substack formatting, substack newsletter formattingsubstack bullet list, substack create a list, create a list on substack, substack formatting, substack newsletter formatting

Numbered List

To create a numbered list, click on the bullet list icon in the Substack editor:

Block Quotes

A block quotation is a direct quotation that is not placed inside quotation marks but instead is set off from the rest of the text by starting it on a new line and indenting it from the left margin. Block quotations may be used to feature long blocks of text containing quotes or as a tool to feature certain content.

Examples:

Creating block quotes with Substack’s editor is easy. All you need to do is click on the quotation icon (far right of the editor), labeled “wrap in a block quote” as seen below:

substack block quotes, substack block quotations, substack editor, substack tutorial, substack guide, substack color line
substack block quotes, substack block quotations, substack editor, substack tutorial, substack guide, substack color linesubstack block quotes, substack block quotations, substack editor, substack tutorial, substack guide, substack color line

Formatting Other Than Editor

For the most part, Substack does a good job of limiting most article formatting to the editor. However, there are a few other article elements that can be edited outside of the Substack article editor.

Color Theme

Substack allows publishers to choose a single color theme.

To edit your newsletter color theme, click on the settings button in the upper right hand corner of your Substack account.

Next scroll down to the theme highlight color section:

edit substack newsletter, substack article formatting, substack newsletter formatting, format substack newsletter,
edit substack newsletter, substack article formatting, substack newsletter formatting, format substack newsletter,edit substack newsletter, substack article formatting, substack newsletter formatting, format substack newsletter,

As seen in the image above, my selected highlight color is red (which you will see in the following examples).

However for the purpose of this tutorial, I changed my highlight theme color to blue, so that it would be easier to distinguish from the red arrows I add to the images.

substack color, substack change color, substack newsletter color, substack theme highlight color, substack theme color
substack color, substack change color, substack newsletter color, substack theme highlight color, substack theme colorsubstack color, substack change color, substack newsletter color, substack theme highlight color, substack theme color

The theme highlight color you select is featured in various parts of your newsletter, including:

The block quotes in your article:

substack block quotes, substack vertical line, How much does Substack cost, How do newsletters make money, substack post
substack block quotes, substack vertical line, How much does Substack cost, How do newsletters make money, substack postsubstack block quotes, substack vertical line, How much does Substack cost, How do newsletters make money, substack post

All buttons in your articles:

substack cta, substack wiki, substack office, What is Substack com, Is Substack free, How does Substack make money
substack cta, substack wiki, substack office, What is Substack com, Is Substack free, How does Substack make moneysubstack cta, substack wiki, substack office, What is Substack com, Is Substack free, How does Substack make money

The buttons on your internal newsletter dashboard:

Underlines and breadcrumbs on your newsletter:

substack tutorial, substack review, substack logo, how to use substack, substack crunchbase, substack wordpress
substack tutorial, substack review, substack logo, how to use substack, substack crunchbase, substack wordpresssubstack tutorial, substack review, substack logo, how to use substack, substack crunchbase, substack wordpress

Horizontal Separator Lines

The selected highlight color theme will also appear throughout you own Substack account, in a number of places.

Casey Botticello

Thanks for reading my article! If you want to learn more about different blogging platforms, check out my newsletter, Blogging Guide!

If you liked this article, here are some other articles you may enjoy:

Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.

Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, a Super PAC dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or by following his award-winning newsletter, Blogging Guide.

Substack Writing

A comprehensive guide to creating subscription Substack newsletters.

Casey Botticello

Written by

Join 10,000+ indie creators learning to navigate the passion economy, escape the 9-5 grind, and monetize their online writing ➜ bloggingguide.substack.com

Substack Writing

A comprehensive guide to Substack, the platform that allows writers to make money by publishing premium newsletters. Blogging Guide Overview ➜ https://bloggingguide.org/blogging-guides/substack

Casey Botticello

Written by

Join 10,000+ indie creators learning to navigate the passion economy, escape the 9-5 grind, and monetize their online writing ➜ bloggingguide.substack.com

Substack Writing

A comprehensive guide to Substack, the platform that allows writers to make money by publishing premium newsletters. Blogging Guide Overview ➜ https://bloggingguide.org/blogging-guides/substack

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