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Top Five Reasons for the Popularity of Top Ten Lists

You can barely go two blogs into the blogosphere without tripping over a top x list nowadays, and that x is usually ten. This blog is no exception, though we do fall short of making every post into a top ten list, as many blogs tend to do. The top ten trend has been widely criticized, but there’s no doubt that it’s addictive. Why is that?

I wanted to write top ten reasons that top ten lists are so popular, but I think my points stand better if there’s only five of them. After all, who needs to be restricted by formatting? So without further rambling, here is the top five reasons why top ten lists are so damn popular:

5. They’re more visual.
It’s hard to insert random images from Google into a thought-provoking, professional-style essay. Something about “jarring shifts in tone” and “negative use of juxtaposition”, I think. But let’s face it: a lot of people are visual, and the modern world has opened up some incredible new avenues for visual communication. Often, a picture really is worth a thousand words. At least, it is to the time-crunched people on the web nowadays, who are probably going to be put off by a 1200-word article. Putting your thoughts into such a simple, relatively informal style allows you more liberty in placing images, which can brighten up your articles and increase your readership.

4. They’re easy to type.
typingI wrote the first two paragraphs of this article with my thumb via iPod touch. That’s only a bit over 100 words, but it was still a pain to do. People are getting more and more mobile these days, and it’s inevitable that bloggers are going to want to use a format that requires less manual typing. Top ten lists are usually easier to type than normal articles because the writer doesn’t have to worry about transitional paragraphs — the numbered headers provide all the transition necessary to keep a piece of writing cohesive. Using a list format doesn’t reduce the actual content of an article, but it allows the writer to type less, which can save a lot of effort on mobile devices. The appeal is obvious.

3. They’re easy to write.
The web is built by nerds and always will be (Microsoft Frontpage be damned), but the content creators are ordinary people. Simple, free software like WordPress allows anyone’s grandma to maintain a blog without any real technical background. This ease of access makes blogs the medium of amateur writing. The people writing blogs often aren’t the wordy types that love to write long entries — they want to get to the point. Top ten lists are about as “to the point” as you can get without missing the point altogether. This point also explains why I write so few top ten lists; if my Harry Potter review shows anything, it’s that I’m not afraid to write five pages of crap about inane topics. Sigh.

2. They’re easy to organize.
jumbled numbersIt’s hard to mess up the organization in a list. As long as you can count properly, there shouldn’t be any problems. Compare this with a properly-written formal article, which needs such crazy things as a “catchy opener” and “transitions”. Who has time for those? Just stick a bunch of numbers everywhere and call it a day! On top of that, the informal, web-friendly attitude people tend to expect from top ten lists makes it easier to make every second word into a hyperlink. And hyperlinks are one of the key foundations of the web, so they must be cool!

1. They’re easy to read.
No one has time to read and digest a long-winded essay anymore. In a world of bite-sized information, lists are easier to scan and process, so what’s the downside? I mean, it’s not like we have options or anything. It’s not like we have any choice but to use an overused layout perpetuated by Cracked — that would be crazy talk. Ease of reading is always of utmost important, no matter how badly the content itself gets mangled. And yes, that was sarcastic.

Top ten lists aren’t evil or anything, but they should be taken in moderation, like anything else that’s bad for you. As long as you’re not making every single post into a list format, you can still be a good writer. Unless you’re writing your articles via iPod touch. That’s just stupid.

Written by Likes to Ramble

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