- Traffic. If there’s one thing I learned from the last week it’s that lists work. Every “how to write a better blog” post I read suggests writing lists.
- They’re easy – lists are the easiest of posts to write. You start with a half baked idea and build.
- They’re easy to read – the structure is nice, points are enumerated, discussion is easier.
- They’re finite – the reader knows what they’re getting. You know where to stop.
- They’re controversial – lists start discussions. That’s why magazines have had “top 100” features forever. People have different ideas about what shouldn’t be on the list – or thoughts as to why your list is wrong.
There’s a great article here about why “lists of n things” are such popular fodder. You should read it.
Structurally, the list of n things is a degenerate case of essay. An essay can go anywhere the writer wants. In a list of n things the writer agrees to constrain himself to a collection of points of roughly equal importance, and he tells the reader explicitly what they are.
It’s fine to put “The” before the number [in the title] if you really believe you’ve made an exhaustive list. But evidence suggests most things with titles like this are linkbait.
Lists are in. They are great Internet fodder. If you want to get discussion happening about something – write a list.