Read and writing listicles: Numbered and predictable content with mysterious titles make lists worth the effort

Fareeha Arshad

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There is something about lists — the order, the synchrony, the appeal, and the simplicity — which leaves me high on listgasm every time. They are always fun and easy to write and read. It’s like, by skimming through the headings of those bullet points, I get the freedom to choose whether or not I should read the article any further. The best part about any listicle — irrespective of how bad or good the list itself is — its organization. My neurons start firing, seeing any organized content and pushes me to read it.

I think it’s the same with most of us. We are each looking for excellent content and amazingly written quality at the same time. Though these two traits are hard to find within the same article, they are also purely subjective and context-specific.

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Our love for writing lists comes from similar sentiments as our love for reading them. Let’s have a look at a few reasons why we love creating listicles.

1. We love numbered contents

Most of us love and enjoy organized content. Anything that is numbered is often predictable as to when they end. Especially with the internet being flooded with millions of websites that promise compelling information, anything presented in the form of a list grabs our attention better — our brain processes such data with ease.

Numbered lists will help your readers understand where they stand — how far they have come in the article and how much they still have to read. A detailed article does not have that benefit. Sometimes, overwhelmed by the article’s length, I even end up pressing the back button because I am sure I wouldn’t read the entire content.

Even producing a numbered content is far easier because it gives the writers a sense of certainty of how much is covered or left to be typed. It provides a sense of control that even increases our overall productivity. The best part about creating numbered content is the ready-made template, that is, follow one point to the next in a fixed order without overthinking the flow of the paragraphs. In the words of David Wallechinsky, the co-author of Book of Lists,

“People are attracted to lists because we live in an era of overstimulation, especially in terms of information, and lists help us in organizing what is otherwise overwhelming.”

2. We love giving our readers a sneak peek

Any listicle feels like a contract that a writer has to fulfill. It’s self-explanatory. As a writer, I promised you that I would give you five things about lists, and you expected that when you clicked the title. You get a choice to either read the article in detail and skip the obvious parts. You will not have to go through big chunks of texts to find what excites you because it’s right there — in the title.

It is the same will all lists. If the title promises you 53 things about chocolate that make it healthy, you will find a list of 53 things that make it healthy. If the title promises you 75 ways you can sleep with your eyes open, you will find 75 ways to do so. That’s the best thing about them: there is always promise in the title and its fulfillment in content. And if the writer does not give what he or she promised, you’d hear the warning bells ring.

3. We love the attention we get because of our listicles

Another aspect of listicles is that it brings engagements along with them. Some people agree with what we have to say, and some do not. At the same time, a few love coming up with their lists about the same topic and bring something else to the top. People get to be vocal about their opinions after going through a list of controversial issues. Maybe that’s why listicles are often conversation starters.

Creating lists have also made a few writers famous. While world-renowned people have also indulged in the art of list-making. One of the most notable list makers was Benjamin Franklin. Walter Isaacson wrote about Franklin in Time magazine and mentioned how Franklin could practically make lists about everything in his life. Isaacson writes,

“A methodical and wry man, Franklin loved making lists. He made lists of rules for his tradesmen’s club, of synonyms for being drunk, of maxims for matrimonial happiness and of reasons to choose an older woman as a mistress. Most famously, as a young man, he made a list of personal virtues that he determined should define his life.”

4. We love producing content in the least amount of time

Compared to long-form articles or narrative essays, listicles are relatively shorter. You wouldn’t have to waste time elaborating the minutest of the details to make your writing more appealing because it already is — it’s a listicle, after all! It can be as short or long as possible. There is no rule to it.

The most enjoyable part about coming up with a list is that it does not need a hooky introduction or a thought-provoking ending. All that matters is the middle part — the headings of the list itself. You do not have to run the article through repeated grammar checks or figure out what to keep and what to not.

You wouldn’t have to worry about the word count while coming up with a list because they can be as long or as short as needed. Plus, you wouldn’t have to fight writer’s block or procrastination because you can jot down everything in bite-sized information. The only thing you have to take care of is compiling the list itself. According to psychologist Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University, making lists helps fight procrastination and helps get work done faster. This, therefore, can help overcome writer’s block.

5. We love wrapping predictable content with mysterious titles

In 2011, psychologists Messner and Wanke established that we humans feel comfortable when we have a lower number of options to choose from while processing information. Maybe this is why when we plan to write a complex article, it takes a lot of time to develop a particular topic, then a layout, followed by subheadings and details within the subject. While creating a specific list becomes a lot easy.

As soon as I read a heading of a list, I try predicting its contents. Even if they are unpredictable, the contents stir a sense of curiosity, and I wonder whether the particular point in my head will be present on the list. If it is present, what does the writer mean by placing that point in this list?

Sometimes, lists stir strong emotions that I come up with because I disagree with them, and I believe certain things must not be on the list, and something else should be present instead. This thought itself does more than seventy per cent of my work because the layout is planned, and so are the headings.

Creating lists means coming up with several headings — the main title and the header of each point we write down.

Parting words

Though our curiosity is insatiable, we don’t seem to have either the time or the patience to go through the entire long-form article at one go.

Listicles makes the writing process easier and help us showcase all the necessary nuggets of information at the same time.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

Texas State
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