The Art of the List

Lists have always been a great way of organizing your thoughts but in this era of ever-shrinking attention spans they can also make an effective communication tool. Here are the top reasons why I think lists work so well:

  1. Lists force writers to organize their thoughts.
  2. The basic structure of a list is simple and easy to understand.
  3. Lists eliminate fluff.
  4. Lists help break up content into manageable chunks that are easy to scan.
  5. The average four-year-old can count to 10 … which means that the current U.S. market for top 10 lists is estimated at 285,706,894 people.

Bonus Lists:

A counterpoint (i.e. lists suck):

Update:

  • January 2, 2013 – Umberto Eco says that we like lists because we don’t want to die: http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/umberto-eco-on-why-we-love-lists/266728/.
  • June 18, 2013 – Derek Thompson discusses the “tyranny ” of lists on the Atlantic: “It’s well understood that lists and rankings can be fixed. But … research makes a bigger claim: That fixed rankings can dupe us into liking things that we wouldn’t have liked if they hadn’t been ranked more highly. The placebo effect of most-popular lists suggests that better-reviewed meals might actually taste better; more-downloaded songs might actually sound better; articles with more Facebook likes might actually feel more delightful to read. When we outsource our navigation of the world to other peoples’ opinions, we lose, in a small way, our ability to individually evaluate the quality of our experience.” (Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/the-tyranny-of-most-popular-lists/276847/.)

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