Cup of Copy: Listicles

After working at CopyPress for more than 9 months, I discovered that I have become desensitized to certain things. For one, I have started to use emoticons and exclamation points! On everything!! When I used to loathe both!!! 😉

Sharebait on the Internet has become nothing more than a nuisance to my everyday reading.  Granted I deal with hundreds of pieces of sharebait a month, but I am also reading it on the blogs that I regularly visit and others that I want to nurture relationships with. List articles – listicles, if you will – were once my favorite to read, but have become an automatic skip over when I’m browsing on the web.

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The Problem With Lists

The reason that I have a problem with lists is that I always think there should be an item added that was left off. For example, you can’t have a list with the “10 Best Sports Movies of All Time” and not have the Mighty Duck 2 on there. (This is not an opinion, this is a fact for every person who grew up in the 90’s.)

The lists seen on the Internet are oftentimes lists of opinion rather than anything based on data. What one person – or team of writers – considers to be the best or worst is entirely subjective.

Furthermore, words like “Amazing” and “Best Ever” are thrown around too lightly. I was reading an article called “5 Best Life Hacks Ever” and I was horribly disappointed. According to the title, I should have been shown the secrets to success and life, instead I got tips as valuable as putting Mentos in a Pepsi bottle.

shutterstock_134266226The largest problem that I have with list articles is the depth of information that many articles offer – or lack thereof. Let’s say there’s a Top 10 article on a site that is 500-600 words long. With 10 items on the list and an introduction plus conclusion, add, there are less than 50 words to describe the logic behind each item.

Why They Still Exist

While lists are flashy articles that I think have been overwritten, not all readers on the Internet loathe them as much as I do because they don’t read hundreds of them a week. Although I have taken a hard stance on this subject, there are lists that have been put together carefully that I fully appreciate and share. These are the types of lists that keep people coming back.

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What Can We Do

The easiest thing we can all do is make lists less frequent. This won’t be a reality until everyone is as tired of them as I. In the meantime, the creation of well-researched lists can help lessen the noise and clutter that I see daily.

Using longer word counts on lists will give writers the space they need to explain why something was chosen and given an appropriate ranking instead of just talking about an item.

Next time you are writing a list article, ask yourself a couple of questions. Am I writing this because I am generally interested or because it is going to be easy? Am I going to do research or assign rankings based on my opinion? If writers ask themselves these questions we can fix the problem of excessive and low quality lists and replace them with great ones.

About the author

Tommy Wyher