09/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Top 5 Tips for Writing a "Top 5 Tips for..." Post

Pick up any magazine or go to any website and you'll see lists upon lists of...Lists. Cosmo lists "30 Things to do With a Naked Man", Self lays out the "Top 5 Tips for a Tight Tummy" - even HuffPo loves the lists! "Top 10 Ways to Get your Thrift On," "Health-Boosting Blueberries: 5 Easy Recipes," "7 Steps to Boost your Thyroid and Metabolism"...the list goes on and on. Perhaps people really like being told what to do - maybe we're all on a constant search for simple ways to improve or learn or change - but damn these posts and articles certainly draw us in!!


So in the spirit of writing this post I've done some list reading and decided to put together my own:

"Top 5 Tips for Writing a 'Top 5 Tips for...' Post":
1. Write an Introduction: Who is this list for? What is its use? Perhaps include a backstory or short anecdote. It creates a foundation for the article, draws people in, and sets up the list (see above).
2. Use Magic Numbers: Just like journalists are taught about buzzwords, listmakers know about magic numbers. 5 is obviously a great one...with less than 5 you run the risk of creating something that isn't substantial enough, and too many can seem overwhelming (except for 30 Things to do With a Naked Man; every one of those is necessary I'm sure). If you must do more or less I'd suggest sticking with either odd numbers like 3 or 7 (don't ask why it just olives in a martini) or multiples of 5 (like 10 or 15).
3. Points Must Have Titles in Bold: Followed by an un-bolded explication.
4. Be Witty: Anybody can make a list. I'm sure Sarah Palin has them all over her house. The key is to make it not feel like school or PowerPoint. People like to be entertained, and I think as a listwriter, it becomes your job to do so. Cut and dry is so pre-recession! Channel your inner sassiness, think of some cute puns or references, and don't be afraid to make assertions that you're not even sure you believe (if it's in a list, it automatically makes you sound like you've thought it through and you know what you're talking about).
5. Use Discretion: Never, I repeat NEVER add points to the list just to make it to 5.

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