List Posts – What Are They and Why Do One?
List posts have been a valuable tool for bloggers since way back in the beginning of Blogerdom (a word?). A list post is essentially information grouped together in a list-like fashion to get across an idea to the reader. Well you might say that any writing would cover that definition, and you would be right (nice going!). However the list in a list post has a few advantages over other organizational writing styles.
Reasons for using a List in a Post
Clarity – The list can make what you’re trying to say obvious and clear to the reader. Ambiguities often disappear with a clear bulleted list.
Scannability – Lets face it, people are lazy. They want to be led quickly into whatever they’re reading and absorb the salient points. Also you only have a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention and if they see a nicely laid out list, they may continue on with your post and your site.
Organized Writer and Reader – When I write I generally use an outline to organize my thoughts into a bit of coherency before I put them into a post. It’s much easier organizationally to convert my outline to a list post than almost any other kind of writing. It can organize the reader’s thoughts as well. Putting ideas together to make your topic easier for the reader to follow and digest. Sometimes small chunks of info make all the difference.
Can Make Complicated Topics, Less So – If you are writing about a complicated topic, (which in my world can read Money, Science or Math), large paragraphs can be hard to follow. Smaller, better organized pieces of information can uncomplicate the extremely complicated.
Can Go Viral – If you look at any of the social media or bookmarking sites, (Facebook, Google+, Twitter), a huge portion of their content and the most often shared content…are list posts. People like to share list posts. If you write posts this way, your post could be the next darling of viral social media.
Different Types of List Posts
There are several different ways to employ a list in your post. See a list 😉 of them below.
The Post Itself Is A List – In this type of list post the post itself is just a bulleted or numbered list with not much other extraneous information save a short introduction or closing statement. If you want to get right to the point and lay it all out quickly this is probably the way you’ll want to go. A good example of this is the #2 article in the example section below.
A List Within The Post – Sometimes when you’re going over something in a post and want to point out a few things a list is a good way to go. Depending on the length of each item, I usually use a list if there are more than three independent things to point out. Less than three and I’ll wing it.
Extended Lists – This is a very common way to create a post with lists. It would be a regular post interspersed with lists and other information for clarity and thoroughness. It really can be the best of both worlds and I often write in this fashion myself as I don’t like to write short posts, but I’m a big fan of clear points.
Good Examples –
A example of an extended list with other info:
– 5 Powerful Design Elements that will Transform Your Blog Into a Real Business
Two examples of where the list is the post:
– Lifehacker Pack for Android: Our List of the Best Android Apps
– 11 Practices for a Better Life
An interesting example where the list is a list of images with text explaining each image. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
– The Fantastic Machine that Found the Higgs Boson
And my favorite, (I’m not biased…really), one that I wrote that uses an extended list format to explain backups.
– What Is The Most Important Thing You Can Do Today…Backup Your Data
Some Quick Tips –
Don’t Overuse List Posts – Lists are a powerful tool in blogging, but like anything else they can get a bit stale if you fall back on them too often. Some bloggers think that writing a list post is a lazy way of writing. It can be as flighty or thorough as you want it to be, but use with caution.
Be Creative With Images and Video – One technique for an interesting list to use thumbnail images or small videos at the “bullet” for the list. It can grab someone’s attention and may get your content noticed over others with the same information.
Be Consistent In Formatting – If you’re going to be adding a bunch of different lists in your post, try to be somewhat consistent in how they are presented. Nothing looks less organized that a bunch of numbered lists with bulleted lists and different indentation widths. This isn’t a Congressional law document. Keep it consistent.
Have Fun With It – It may seem odd to refer to fun when writing about writing, but if we can’t enjoy what we’re doing what’s the point of doing it?
So that’s Day 2 of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog course. As you can see from above, my post about list posts qualifies as a list post itself. Tricky eh? Follow along as we complete each of the days courses and explain how we’re doing it. If you want to follow along with the actual course manual you can pick it up at 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It goes into a lot more detail about each topic than I can get into with these posts. Also I should let you know that these won’t be 31 consecutive days. I have other things I must accomplish in the interim.
If you have a list post that you’d like to uphold as the pinnacle of list postedness, just add the link to the comments or link over to us on Facebook or Google+. And May The List Be With You.