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Five Reasons You SHOULDN’T Use A List

Some months back I wrote a post here on how to avoid bring boring with your blog.  While this is not a direct follow-up, I have noticed that blogs such as ’10 ways to make your blog a success’ etc. have completely overtaken the santas list blogmore traditional storytelling approach.

While there are advantages to lists, I personally think they are more suitable for an instruction manual or Lapland and here’s why: simply put, who actually wants to read a list!

Admittedly, I have used them a lot in the past myself as I thought they were concise, easily-followed and had the advantage of an almost step-by-step logical flow.  However upon talking to consumers who read blogs but don’t write them, many are fed-up and tired of this almost obligatory approach to creating a post and expect more from us, the wordsmiths.

It is with a hypocritical tear in my eye, that I write the final list post I shall ever write as both an ode and “sayanora” to playing it safe – Five reasons you shouldn’t use a list in your post:

  1. They don’t flow well – we speak in conversation and unless your blog is purely instructional, you shouldn’t write it as a list
  2. It’s creatively lazy – lists generally require little creativity – therefore it’s unlikely to spark the imagination of your reader.  I once heard a journalist say that lists are ‘lazy journalism’ – is it any different in the blogosphere?
  3. Lists are associated with boredom – outside of Santa Claus, I can’t remember ever getting excited about a list.  I associate them with routine and apparently many others do too!
  4. They become redundant – depending on your topic, very often a list will be become quickly out-of-date especially in the digital world

and finally in my view the most important reason…

If SSSSOOOO many blogs are using lists, the minute you put one together you are going to find it hard to be unique with your blog.  Blogs are an opportunity for us to write freely and openly – it’s hard to get a personal sense of the writer through a list!

Since the dawn of civilisation, storytelling and creative writing have been an artistic and useful way of communicating morals, educating people and ensuring people can actually relate to what you are trying to say.  As I said above, I write this as a hypocrite, but I’m turning a new leaf.  Fair well oh list – it’s been short but sweet.

Am I being too hard on lists?  Have you asked any of your readers what they think of your lists?

ME: Marketing Manager, SaaS; co-founder of; Social Media Junkie; MSc in Strategic Management; Opinions my own and they may offend (not intentionally of course).

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  • Conor,nI love this post 1. LOL 2. LOL 3. LOLnPlease just be mindful that there are those of us who LOVE lists, they:n1. help organise an unorganised mind (another debate for another day)n2. help overly-creative people think laterally (or literally)n3. look good (like timetables)n4. provide great satisfaction when elements can be crossed offn5. this is only a 4 reason PRO list!!nnAre you being hard??? Hell, no. Lists limit our creativity, and can conjure up the “Oh No, not another list” feelings.nnThe debate began 2009-2010 when blogposts on blogging and engagement starting endorsing LISTS, TOP 10, TOP 5 type posts to keep readers reading. To explain, if I see a 500 word essay type blogpost (even if telling a compelling story) compared to a TOP 10, neatly listed and in obvious readable sections, which do you think I’ll most likely gravitate to?? (yes, trick Question, see 2nd sentence above for clues).nnWhatever about the story, first impressions count, and the blog heading and basic layout is what will get them reading, unless they are researching what you are writing about.nnMake sense?

  • I’m not a fan of lists either (and I tend to be quite wordy and I love reading so don’t generally have u00a0a problem reading a long blog post if it is interesting) but I do think that people are looking for info to be succinct and quick to read. I wouldn’t ever suggest making every blog post a list and it only suits some topics but they do have their place 🙂

  • I guess we will all keep writing them because we like reading them, but I love that you put a balance on it. Brian

  • Connor Keppel

    Hi Elaine, thanks for reading. u00a0Valid response indeed 🙂 I think they can be used, but like I said only more for actual ‘Step 1: remove the unit from its packaging’ kind of blog. u00a0I personally switch off from lists unless they are countdown such as ‘Ten biggest Moto GP crashes of all time’ – that’s the child coming out in me!nnI agree some people may not have a natural flair for the essay style writing. u00a0I think deep down though fear of actually expressing yourself can also be a problem and perhaps the fear of being lambasted for your views. u00a0nnMake sense also?nn

  • Connor Keppel

    Thanks for commenting Brian and thanks for reading.

  • Anonymous

    As with so much it really depends on the list. u00a0If it’s uncreative and simply a list of unexplored points, yes it’s pointless.nnIf it’s just a way of breaking down a lengthy blog into key points that are explained more fully I think it works. u00a0I think we’re seeing an explosion of them in the blogsphere as you will often find that including a number in your post title results in more clicks. u00a0However as everyone is writing posts with headlines like this now they become less clickable. u00a0If the content is good it shouldn’t matter that it’s presented in list form. If the content is bad… well I wouldn’t have read anyway.

  • Connor Keppel

    Hi Lorna, My sentiments exactly 🙂 Thanks for readingu00a0

  • Roisin Bell

    I also think lists are over-used in blog posts – well done on highlighting this Conor.u00a0nnI wonder if thisu00a0tendencyu00a0to over-use this easy(er) option is symptomatic of the pressure we are under to be creative, once we commit to writing a blog post regularly?u00a0nnAfter all, most of us are not professional wordsmiths, so producing enjoyable, informative, well written output to a rigorous schedule can often be a strain. Well I find it a strain I have to admit!nn

  • nAlthough I agree that people tend to over do them, most of the time, my list posts are the most popular. I think it is more about how they are written rather than whether it is a list or not.

  • I personally like lists, but not every post has to be a list. It just smacks of laziness that way. Sometimes, when I see two different posts on different sites making a list on the same topic, I tend to stop and wonder which list is far superior, and also if the same topic couldn’t have been written about in a different way.

  • Hi Connor,u00a0 I agree that lists are lazy from a creative standpoint.u00a0 We have found, however, that lists are some of the most popular forms of posts from a reader perspective.u00a0 They tend to get more pageviews, more tweets … well, more everything. I think a lot of people end up writing lists because readers tend to gravitate towards them. Oh well …nn- Anita

  • I loved your comment, Elaine!u00a0 This could be turned into a standalone post on its own.nn- Anita

  • Well perhaps that is the trick right there! I would definitely watch 10 biggest GP crashes. So perhaps we should look at creating compelling content before we start building lists 🙂 and use the TOP 10 etc to organise and manage that content – or is it all just in the Blog Heading?nnYou also make a fair point about fear – we all have varying relationships with fear and dread. Story telling may invite lambasting (great word) but in my experience it sort of exempts us as NO-ONE can contradict opinion, only agree or disagree with it. nnReaders of blogs sometimes mistake a blog as fact-declaring, when in fact when we blog, we are sharing our experience, our expertise, an opinion or simply a story.

  • Thank you kindly Anita. I am wondering which part?

  • Elaine,u00a0 I thought it was clever the way you responded in list form, including the LOLs being listed. That made me laugh right away.u00a0 And the other list points you made were great — they came across with greater impact because of responding in a list form, with a little humor in them too. You could take that and expand the list.u00a0 Just a thought ….nn- Anita

  • Connor Keppel

    Good points also Elaine. I also think perhaps that listed blogs can almostu00a0automaticallyu00a0give the intent of being factual if not approached correctly i.e. even if you don’t want it to be factual, a list can create impressions of factual content whereas a story based blog probably escapes this perception to a better extent.nnLove what you’re saying opinions also. Very true.

  • Connor Keppel

    Very true Anita. u00a0Perhaps we need to buck the trend and maybe over time a new more unique way of presenting content will come out on top. u00a0Thanks for reading and commenting!u00a0

  • Connor Keppel

    Agree with you completely. u00a0Glad to see that you review content with the view of how it could be done differently. u00a0If more did this, I think we would have a far more interesting blogosphere. u00a0Thanks for reading!

  • Connor Keppel

    You’ve just made my blogging day :-)u00a0

  • Connor Keppel

    Agree to a certain point. u00a0Although it’s very much the go-solution for almost all topics now. u00a0They have a time and place in my view.

  • Connor Keppel

    Great point Roisin. u00a0Creativity I find requires time to mull overu00a0possibilities. u00a0Depending on your personal and professional pressures, I find most of the time people are not given the time to truly do something creative. u00a0Better start working on my next post now! :-)u00a0

  • Connor Keppel

    Good points on format vs. content. u00a0Again it’s about presenting it suitably. u00a0It just seems that an awful lot of writers don’t even think about doing anything outside of a list!

  • Connor Keppel

    Hi Wong,nnI agree with you in part. u00a0Although I don’t agree with your statement: ‘It doesn’t matter what you say because when it comes to writing, it is not how you write, but what you write matters.’ u00a0How you write is much like how you speak. u00a0nnThere is a communications theorist called Marshall McLuan who once wrote that the medium is the message. u00a0It’s like this in my view – if you present your content well people will read it. u00a0If the content is good then people will engage with it – if you can do both simultaneously then you’re onto a winner. Lists are abundant and overused in my view. u00a0Should we not be striving to do something different?nnMany thanks for reading and commenting – :-)u00a0nnConnor u00a0

  • Connor Keppel

    Hi wong, interesting analogy although perhaps a little extremist.  I still disagree with your original statement about ‘how’ you say something is irrelevant.  I studied communications for three years and the utilization of the medium is vitally important in communicating a message.  Ask any great comedian!

    I think we will have to agree to disagree. Many thanks for the debate and interaction 🙂 

  • Connor Keppel

    Great Wong. Good to chat and I’m sure we’ll interact soon 🙂

  • WOW – this is a tough one.  I agree with you on so many levels AND I’m also a fan of list posts.  So you’ve got me thinking about which list posts are “good” and which fall into the critique you are writing about. I think I’m going to lean on the side of liking list posts that are exactly that — a check list.  

    There is something very satisfying about running through a list post such as 25 Twitter Apps….to me, that is the perfect list post.  But when you get to “generalized” list posts, that’s where I think your point of view has a strong foundation.

    Thanks for starting a great conversation – 

  • I have been blogging since 2002 and I have mixed my posts with short pundit punchlines of a sentence or two and a link, an excerpt or quote from a blog post / article, etc. I have also have had longer guest blog posts with several hundred words and now and then wrap posts with bullet points and a list of stuff.

  • Connor Keppel

    Good combination strategy.  I think bullets are a great way to break up a post and with commentary can be much more effective in creating flow to the post than just a simple top 10 etc.  Thanks for commenting and engaging on twitter! 

  • Connor Keppel

    Firstly, many thanks for reading and commenting.  Love the way your comment almost seems like you’re thinking out loud.  Far more engaging than “I disagree and here’s five reasons why:”

    1. zzzzzzzzzzzz

    Thanks Ivana 🙂 

  • This is great. According to me, they can easily-followed the advantage of an almost step-by-step logical flow.This is an amazing.Thanks to share this blog.Keep sharing.

  • I was just discussing this topic with a friend of mine in another time zone. Office holiday parties are necessary to demonstrate a token of thanks and morale well being to your employees. The better you want your employees to feel, the better the party. If some ‘get out of hand’, you’ve learned something about them. If there are photos taken, then ‘they’ have learned something. Correctness has it’s place during normal business hours, but loosen the ties once a year and you’ll be amazed at the improved staff morale.

  • Roisin Bell

    Ideally most people will have plenty of other Christmas parties and nights out, and so won’t feel the need to go completely mad at the office party. 

    Let your hair down when you’re with friends or family instead! 

    By all means relax and enjoy yourself at the office party (much will be forgiven on a night like that – or should be!) but don’t go along planning to go completely bananas – it’s not necessary and not worth it.

  • I agree Roisin, keep the bananas for family and friends 🙂

  • I agree that the tie can be loosened Kevin, the Office Party can be a fun relaxed event for all 🙂

  • Hi Elish,
    Glad you enjoyed the interview. It’s so refreshing to see such an effort made to turn things around in such a positive way. What strikes me most about Samantha, is her absolute conviction in her business despite all the negative feedback or reactions she comes across on her journey. 
    One of the key takeaways for me was to not be afraid to ask for help, and Samantha does that very well, and really puts herself out there.

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