WEEK 10: The Listicle


March 20, 2017

lis / ti / cle

‘listək(ə)l’ n. Written content, such as an article, presented in the form of a list. For example: Buzzfeed’s “20 Cheatsheets For When You’re Trying to Eat a Little Healthier”

With today’s short attention spans and the easy opportunity the internet provides its consumers to just “click away”, writers need to grab their attention and hold it. Readers want their information in bite-sized bits, and it’s even better if the bite sizes are appetizing – with sprinkles. Enter, the listicle.

Though it’s been around for decades (every year-end has a roundup of the year’s most memorable moments, best/worst movies, top recording hits, etc.), this form of article has been made more popular by Buzzfeed, Mic, Huffington post and other sites. However, it’s also a popular form for many, many blog posts. Check Pinterest for blogging ideas and inevitably, you’ll see links to blog posts about the types of blog posts you can write for your new blog. Those posts are invariably written as lists and include a point about Top 10 Somethings or 5 Favorite Places to Go For ___ or 17 Reason You need A ____.

Your Assignment

This week, we’re going to write listicles. The options are endless, so you’ll be brainstorming for topics, then deciding on an angle, then creating a list of points and either adding to or paring down. Then you’ll decide to find or create images or find GIFs to go with your points.

You’ll write an introduction portion, the list and a conclusion. Look at some current listicles to get some ideas, starting with the sources listed above or Pinterest. You will have to think and create and write and go find images and put it together, so manage your time.

Where to Start?

The nonprofitcopywriter suggests deciding first what kind of list you want to write:

  1. Personal Experience: Writing about your own experiences.
    “13 Sibling battles every Non-Only Child Can Relate To” (I just made that up, but I could produce it)
    “13 Books That Have Taught Me Empathy”
  2. Advice: Pairing expert advice with your own insight is a good combination.
    Regain Lost Energy and Positivity With These 5 Proven Strategies”
  3. Researched Lists: Do the research for your readers and report your findings.
    “Safety First: These 5 Cars Have the Highest Crash Safety Rating”
  4. Editorial lists: Note trends, then gather links with a particular angle for presentation.
    “21 of the Most Circulated Completely False News Stories During the Presidential Campaign”
  5. Mega lists: Many items listed together
    “89 References to Shakespeare in ‘The Simpsons'”
  6. Short lists: Under 10 items
    “2 Times Presidential Candidates Totally Kept Their Campaign Promises” (I thought zero was too negative and I really don’t know how many times it’s actually happened. Maybe this one should fall under researched lists?)

Of course, your list could be serious, helpful and heartfelt or ridiculously silly – and heartfelt. That’s up to you and has a lot to do with your writer voice.

On Headlines

Though listicle headline writing may seem straightforward (it’s a list. With a number. How hard is that?), you can still write a boring one or a compelling one. consider:

“My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2016”
“My 5 Blog Posts that had Readers Rethinking Their Lives”

Pinterest, again, is a good place to note how well (or not) writers write compelling headlines.

Regarding the numbers, evidence seems to bear out that odd numbers draw more readers than even ones, 10 being the exception. You’ll see 21 more often than you’ll see 20. Some experimentation also indicates that prime numbers (those divisible only by themselves) get more clicks. Go figure. Really. You may need a calculator. I would.

On Images

Besides the catchy headline, listicles use images, even GIFs, for each point in the list, which makes them more fun and very popular for sharing.

“So, Snider, I’ve got a couple ideas. Now what?”

Do your ideas lend themselves to still images or GIFs? For still, you know the drill: Flickr, Pixabay, Wikimedia or DIY. For GIFs, you can Google the subject + GIF. Or you can check out giphy.com, like I’m about to. We’ll do this together. I haven’t done this before (though I’ve wanted to), so we’ll do it together.

Your writing needs to be concise, clear and on point. It needs to be informing and entertaining, whether you are serious or humorous. USE MODELS. Look at a lot of these and imagine yourself creating something like it, but about your own topic.

 Go to your figurative cubicle. Ignore your neighbor unless you or s/he needs help and put in headphones, if necessary. Focus. See you on the other side.


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