5 Reasons People Need to Stop Complaining About List Articles

Categories: Writing
listarticles3.jpg
A Good List Article Isn't a List Article at All If you clicked on that Cracked.com link earlier, you would have seen it was David Wong's "5 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person," and like everything Wong writes, it should be required reading for all human peoples. The title does not lie. It is a collection of five harsh truths.

That said, they are presented more like the chapters of a book or the acts of a play. A good list article has no truck with that mishmash of Buzzfeed captions. Instead, it follows a good narrative from beginning to end, with brief stopping points right where the story beats should be. There's a flow, and you can use the format to say an awful lot of things.

Again, it's a question of quality. You can put a guitar in the hands of a 14-year-old who has just discovered "Smoke on the Water" and put the same guitar in the hands of Yngwie Fucking Malmsteen* and get totally different results. Here's a hint: It ain't the guitar.

*This is not profanity. Malmsteen's middle name is "Fucking" [citation needed]

List Articles Allow Writers to Talk About Things That Aren't News: Have you ever come across something years after it debuted and wanted to share it with everyone you know because it's an awesome thing? That happens with writers, too, and sharing awesome things is our bread and butter, not to mention our Laffy Taffy and cheap wine.

There's a problem, though. That awesome Tetris musical you just found on YouTube? It's not current news and no one is going to care four years after it was released. It's just not timely enough. So what do you do? You wait until the anniversary of the game rolls around and you throw out the "7 Best Covers of the Tetris Theme".

That's what I and so many other pop-culture writers love about the format. If you come across something you think is neat, all you have to do is find four or nine things roughly like it in some way and then you can show it off. It's a wonderful method of getting tiny pockets of trivial greatness a little press and love in the world.

listarticles4.jpg
Source
Pictured: Debate

Ranking Fosters Debate: Everyone who writes a Top 10 anything article knows the very first response he or she is going to get: "You forgot thiiiiiiiiis." This is usually followed by calls for the writer's termination, sometimes from life itself, and a general hatred of the news outlet expressed in poorly spelled expletives.

Amid all the noise that this generates, though, you often get to see how people really feel about a particular subject. Readers will fervently argue their preferred recognition of video games or songs or whatever is on the table, and such argument actually does lead to new insight. For a writer, it's a good way to find a cultural pulse.

Undoubtedly the comments on this story will feature people explaining the five ways list articles tongue-bath the odious rectum of a donkey, and some of them will probably be at least partially right. Regardless, there's nothing inherently wrong with presenting your story in the format. Like rectum-licking, it all depends on the skill and care of the person doing it.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Paul Hudson
Paul Hudson

Lists are retarded....no research is done....no rhyme or reason behind the order. They seem to be put together in a style similar to a daily horoscope. Close your eyes, reach into a hat and pick

Eric Weathers
Eric Weathers

It's a template for lazy writers on a deadline. Lazier even than the Introduction-Three supporting paragraphs-Conclusion format we used in school to knock out an essay we had a month to write but all of a sudden was due in the morning. Your points are as follows: First, word count somehow makes an article more valuable. Second, that list articles are almost as popular on the internet as dick pill advertisements. Third, you provide a single anecdote of a list article you personally consider well done. Fourth, writers love list articles because they're so easy to write. And there was no fifth point, you used that one as your conclusion because you still haven't evolved as a writer past Mrs. Johnson's English class.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

How 'bout the number one reason: People read the heck out of them. Complain all you want, but for every one person complaining about another fucking list, at least five more are reading the entire thing. We've got the charts and other statistical mumbo jumbo to prove it.

misi
misi

You would only say "How about 10 ways to go fuck yourself?" over the internet. How about an article on how "big" people are over the web. Pussy move sir.... Pussy move.

leonard_bruce_esq
leonard_bruce_esq

List articles are favored by writers as all that extra white space means that they have to exert much less effort than usual. 'Content is king' say the editors who inflict this fluff on readers...

Anse
Anse

You make some good points, but honestly, these don't apply to probably 90% of the lists published by the Press. Top Five Drive-Throughs? Seriously? Is this really a thing? When you guys write a truly in-depth investigative story you can run circles around the Chronicle. Some of the best stuff I've read I've found on the pages of the Houston Press. But I guess it's hard filling a web page that is accessed 24/7. I'm trying to be sympathetic...

Eddie_Snow
Eddie_Snow

Eric took Jef to the burn unit on this one. Nicely done sir.

Anse
Anse

@KaitlinS Believe it or not, some of us do read things before forming an opinion of them. And after reading list after list, I feel comfortable agreeing with the other posters here: they're mostly fluff. I mean, jesus, that Top Ten Drive-Throughs list includes such amazing insights as Taco effin' Cabana. Lordy. For all those hipsters who didn't know how hip Houston is, we've got Taco Cabana! I applaud you for getting five web pages out of that. That's content. Oodles and oodles of content!

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@Anse @KaitlinS The fact that you didn't like it doesn't negate the fact that you read it...which is why we keep doing them...

CoryGarcia
CoryGarcia moderator

@Anse @KaitlinS You can dislike lists. You can think that they're fluff. That does not negate the fact that by and large people really like lists.

Anse
Anse

@KaitlinS @Anse It's frustrating. The only way I can tell you that Nicholas Sparks is a shitty novelist is because I actually read The Notebook. But in the internet age, that kind of logic doesn't fly, I guess. 

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Health & Beauty

General

Loading...