Lists are everywhere, and as cliché as they may have become, I’m going to tell you why you should write one. When it comes to communicating ideas for any reason and in any profession, a list is your best friend.
1. Ten is a magical number
Children first learn to count to ten. Most humans have ten fingers and ten toes. We measure large numbers in multiples of ten. Top Ten lists don’t show just one useful thing, but 10 of them.
2. Lists deliver on a promise
It can be easy to under deliver in writing, but a top ten list keeps you on track and is committed to providing exactly what it says. Your readers know what they’re in for when they see the headline.
3. They are easy to consume
Readers are busy with work, studies, life and a million other competing articles. A list needs no time spent searching for takeaways. Most web readers look at headlines first (or only) and content second. Since lists are really a series of headlines, they are an easy win.
4. They are clickable
Top Ten lists are all over the Internet, and for good reason: they are irresistible. They appeal to our primal sense of curiosity. Don’t you want to know the top ten things to eat this season? I certainly do.
5. They are sharable
Look at your Facebook feed. I bet you saw a list. People love sharing lists to prove a point, compile must-reads, have a chuckle with friends or enlighten their following. Lists end up all over cork-boards, refrigerators, common-room doors and social media.
6. They are concise
Lists, by their very nature, keep content to the point. There is no room for long addendums causing readership drop-off.
7. People actually read them
“Readers” are really “Scanners” online. If they are not entertained within 5 seconds (or less) they “bounce” out. Long, windy articles (and videos) - even if beautifully executed - tend to have low retention online. Slate studied their readership behavior and confirmed that people will even Tweet an article without ever taking the time to read anything but the headline! But if readers like the content, they’ll take the time to get through a list. And the more scannable the list is, the more likely they will stick around to finish it.
8. They are useful
Step-by-step procedures are effortless to follow in list form. They are easy to take notes from and refer to. They can teach you a new skill and even improve your career.
Personally, I love lists. To-do lists keep me productive. Shopping lists keep my fridge well-stocked. Bucket lists compel me to follow my dreams. Writing a list feels like scratching an itch and I end up writing them all the time. I also love reading them for all the reasons I’ve already listed.