There is no love lost for the list article (more commonly known as the listicle): the format is most often perceived as a way to fish for clicks or as lazy content creation. But having written several of these texts, I have come to understand that the listicle isn’t rotten to the core. You see, even lists have a place in the world, and there are good reasons for writing them – as well as bad ones. Read (or, in keeping with the theme, at least skim through) this listicle to find out when to start putting things in order.
Seven good reasons to write a listicle
1. You want to communicate effectively
People have little time and terrible attention spans (you can blame the internet for this if you like). It takes less time to read a list article. You can condense several sheets worth of information into a list containing only a few points – at least if you know what you’re doing. The reader can also spot the most important points right away, even if they only read the headlines. So if your goal is to make things come across fast and effectively, it’s not a bad idea to use a list.
2. You want to keep things simple
Lists are simple. Even the most difficult things can be presented quite clearly in a list (and easy things can be made difficult if you use some other format). Sometimes it’s only a good thing a text is easy to read – not everything has to be poetic prose or scientific jargon to be meaningful.
3. You want to reach a larger audience
Yes, the ugly truth is that list articles usually get more clicks, a larger audience and more shares in social media than other kinds of content. But just the form of a listicle won’t get people excited about your content. So be sure to be careful when using this superpower.
4. You want to maintain order
The human mind longs for order, and lists make the world a more orderly place. A familiar structure comforts the reader, and they know exactly what they are in for when clicking to a list post – and this often also attracts people to read lists. So if you are an organized person and/or your topic is founded on logic, a list may well serve your purpose.
5. You want to be funny
Do you wish to entertain your readers? It’s easy to make a list post fun. You can play with it effortlessly – after all, clarity, brevity and predictability are often the hallmarks of a good joke, too. The less formal format also makes the text more approachable.
6. You want to keep it concise
A list post tells you what’s important without any unnecessary frills. It goes straight to the point. While it may not provide the reader with a deep analysis of its subject, it gives them a chance to learn about many things at once. And they can always find out more about the things that seem interesting later.
7. You want to go viral
Do you want your content to get shares on social media? A list post increases the virality of content significantly more than other forms of content. When the content speaks to its target audience and is also quick and easy to swallow, it’s sure to get shares.
Six bad reasons to write a list post
1. You want to get off easy
You must create some kind of content, but you’re not really feeling like it and there isn’t much time left. You think the listicle is the perfect solution. You’re wrong. Writing a good list post isn’t any easier than writing a more traditional article. Creating a listicle often requires a great deal of background research, and you really need to be familiar with the art of summing things up.
2. You just want to make a list
You shouldn’t list just for the fun of listing. Even though you might feel like people would read just about anything these days, don’t write an article called “15 cables that every modern person owns.” And if the title is the best part of the post, you should think whether the world really needs that article.
3. You want to collect clicks
So you’re after ad money and clicks. A tempting title will surely get people to click on your post, no matter the content. Well, not really. You might fool people at first, but bad content leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And people won’t return to your site. If your goal is to create an image of a quality digital service, don’t make the mistake of fishing for clicks at the expense of content.
4. You want to raise expectations – in vain
You have probably run into articles yourself that promise something great but don’t impress anybody. You will only annoy your readers if your article doesn’t deliver what it promises. If you write a blogpost titled “10 surprising ways to get over the flu,” you should really include something surprising in the list, not just the same old tricks everyone already knows.
5. You want to hide flaws
Although you might think it, a list can’t camouflage bad content. A list article is just another way of presenting things. You can always spot hastily whipped together texts and hollow content, no matter the format.
6. Everyone else is doing it
If writing a listicle doesn’t feel like your thing or serve your purpose, don’t do it. Remember that it’s best suited for a quick information fix. You also shouldn’t try it if you’re not convinced there could ever be a good reason to use lists, even after reading this article.