Creating Lists That Interest Your Readers

Quick, tell me what’s wrong with this list:

Tricolor Cats

  • Calico
  • Chocolate tortoiseshell
  • Spicy tortoiseshell
  • Hot tortoiseshell
  • Tortoiseshell-calico (tortico)
  • Tortoiseshell-tabby (torbie)

If you said “It’s not meaningful” or a variation of that, you nailed it.  Even I, the creator of this list, can’t tell you why it was worth writing because honestly it’s just a collection of words.  Creating lists is a more casual, fun form of writing, but there are still tips and tricks for adding interest for your readers.

First and most important, consider the purpose of creating the list.  In addition to making money, it needs to add something to humanity’s knowledge.  Even lists on comedy websites like Cracked have a reason for existing, usually because the writing style entertains readers while the content educates them. The sample list of tricolor cats would exist because I’m a huge fan of these beautiful fur colors and want to share what they are and why I think they’re so beautiful, so essentially for education, information,and persuasion.

It’s not enough for us writers to know the purpose of our list; We have to clearly express it to our audience as well. Before we launch into our list, we should provide an explanation of what we expect our readers to take from the list. For example:

Tricolor Cats

These beautiful fur colors are often misunderstood by everyone, even self-proclaimed cat lovers.  The following list will detail what the various tricolor cats look like and what makes them special to their fans.

When we start writing our list, it’s fine to create an outline (“skeleton” as I would call it) so that it serves as a guide for what we’ll write about.  We should expand on our list later, giving details that are relevant to the purpose of our list.  This is when our list becomes meaningful because now readers can look at it and say “Okay, I see what they mean.”  Using my example, the list itself might look like this:

  • Calico-These cats are mostly white with distinctive patches of auburn (red) or gold and black fur.  They have been studied by scientists who think there is a link between calico obesity and human obesity.
  • Chocolate tortoiseshell-These cats are mostly black or very dark brown with brindled fur of auburn (red) or gold and cream fur.  Fans of the chocolate tortoiseshell call them “quirky” and say they are full of “tortitude”.

There are mixed thoughts on whether the list should have a closing paragraph or not.  I recommend closing with a few sentences or questions for the readers, but this is optional.  Just be sure to end on a strong note.

Readers I now turn to your knowledge of lists.  Is there anything I missed?  What adds interest to a list in your mind?  Do you prefer reading lists or traditional articles?

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Sweet face, sharp tongue, keyboard at the ready.

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