Of course I am writing a list about why lists are great! Think about how often we use lists: to-do lists, grocery lists, wish lists… the list (sorry) goes on! Articles written in the form of a list attract more readers than any other type of article. Some of this has to do with psychology, and some of it is just human nature. In this “listicle” (list article), I am going to give you all the reasons to write your blogs and articles in the form of lists and why lists work.
1. List headlines are more powerful than non-lists
How do you draw readers in to begin with? With an attention-grabbing headline. Using a number in the headline gives the reader a clear view of what they’re getting into and how long the article might be. Which of these headlines are you more likely to click on?
Dogs Express Feelings in their Own Way
5 Ways Your Dog Is Telling You He Loves You
TBH, I’d probably click on both of these, because dogs. But, the headline that includes “5 Ways” tells me the article is a list and I will learn exactly 5 new things is more enticing. Vague headlines could lead to boring and uninformative articles, whereas a list is at least going to be more interesting. The brain loves specificity, so knowing there’s a finite number of things to read in the article is always attractive. Additionally, headlines for list articles tend to be more specific about the content in the article than non-list headlines.
Studies have shown that odd-numbered lists outperform even-numbered lists.
That’s…odd! What is it about our brains that prefers odd numbers? Odd numbers are easier for our brains to retain. Think about phone numbers – they’re 7 numbers, a zip code is 5 numbers and emergency phone numbers are 3 numbers. All of these important things we need to remember are odd numbers. It’s easier for our brain to group things in odd numbers, but difficult to remember groups of items larger than 9.
2. Information is easier to digest and remember
In this day and age, keeping your audience’s attention is getting more difficult by the day. With so much media and information everywhere they look, even 5-second video spots struggle to keep an engaged audience. People are on-the-go, they’re short on time and they will not spend much time reading through big blocks of text. We’re growing lazier by the day, and reading has become more of a chore for many people. Even more so, reading online is a strain on the eyes. Reading a list is easier and less taxing on both the eyes and the brain.
In order to keep the reader engaged, make a list so they can skim through and get the general idea of what you’re writing about. If all they do is read the headlines, at least they’ll have finished the entire article. Make sure that your headlines are descriptive of what each section is about, or the audience may drop off faster than we’d like. Our brains are always trying to categorize and make sense of the information we’re reading, so reading an already categorized list makes the content easier to understand.
3. Spatial Organization and White Space Bring Order
Inherently, our brains like order. Our desk clutter may say otherwise, but when it comes to design, our brains are drawn to things that are organized and symmetrical. Writing a list breaks up the content in an organized way. Similarly sized paragraphs and large headlines break up the article into the easy-to-digest format, as well as looking visually appealing.
If you look at a list and a long-form article side by side, most likely you’ll be more inclined to read the list. The long article becomes more of a shape and a blob than sentences to read, whereas the list is broken down with plenty of space between each section making it easier to read. White space is important in design as a place for our eyes to rest. Similarly, it’s important to have space between paragraphs and headlines for our eyes to take a break. This type of order is appealing to our brains, and knowing that we’ll get that organization in a list article makes us more likely to click on them.
4. There’s a fear of missing out
When you read a headline for a list, it intrigues you and you may begin guessing what some of the items may be. 9 Ways to Make Running Fun might make you start thinking about what you don’t like about running and how it could be better. It’s often easier on our brains to take a few seconds to click on and scan through the list than to keep scrolling past it for the fear of missing some vital information.
A powerful title for a list article will include adjectives and good descriptive words. Which of these two list titles is more enticing?
10 Ways to Cook Potatoes
10 Delicious Ways to Cook Potatoes that You Haven’t Tried Before
Easily, the second title is more likely to draw you in. Lists are a great platform to use descriptive words to tell the reader what’s in the article and get them to read more. When you read the second headline, you immediately begin thinking about how you cook potatoes. There’s fries, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes… but what are you not thinking of? How could your cooking get better if you try a new way to cook potatoes? What if you keep living your life cooking potatoes the same old boring way? The wheels start turning, and suddenly you’re hooked!
5. Lists show exactly what you’re in for
How often have you seen an enticing headline, clicked on the article and spent a few minutes reading paragraph after paragraph trying to get to the meat of the article? With a list, you know exactly what you’re getting. You know at the start there will be 7 things you’re reading or 25 photos you’re looking at. There is a finite end to the list, and it’s in sight. If you’ve already read the first few items on the list, you typically feel as though you may as well finish the list (or at least scan the headlines).
The reader is more likely to be engaged for the entirety of the article if they know what they’re in for. Reading a block of text just waiting for the good part to happen can leave a reader feeling bored and they’ll have no qualms about closing the page. However, if somebody begins reading a list, they’re likely to finish the entire thing because they’re prepared for how long it is. Lists are a great way to keep your audience engaged from start to finish!