Fellow writers, can we talk?
But first, if there are any kids nearby you may want to cover their eyes or ask them to leave the room because there will be foul language in this post.
Is the coast clear? Okay good.
Now I don’t want to come across as a literary snob, but I fucking hate Listicles! You know, those darn articles written in the form of a list?
I just hate them!
I have this one writing professor who swears by them. She can’t get through a single class without telling us, Everybody loves Listicles, Editors love Listicles, or Readers love Listicles.
Since she makes a pretty good living with them in her day job, I have to quietly sit there and shake my head while she extolls the virtues of these things, which for me are the literary equivalent of a loose bowel movement. But who am I to argue? After all, she’s the professional.
Maybe I’m just a grumpy middle-aged guy who can’t get with the times, but I can’t understand how or why absorbing information in standard sentence form suddenly became so difficult.
However, according to the experts (whoever they are), the way today’s human brain is wired apparently we all have the attention spans of a squirrel on amphetamines.
Because of this, it seems that the only way we can digest data is in bite-sized morsels, such as bullet points or numbered lists – hence the enormous popularity of the Listicle.
Aside from the fact that I don’t buy this premise, what really drives me mad is that no matter where you go, there is no escaping this scourge on the literary landscape. Whether it’s, Twelve Reasons to Love New York, Six Ways to Ask Your Boss for a Raise, or Seventeen Signs Your Grandmother Might Secretly be a Loan Shark, like McDonalds, Starbucks, and Walmart, Listicles are everywhere!
Now before you start reaching for your wallet to send a contribution for my much-needed therapy, let me assure you that I’ll be fine. I have already reached the acceptance stage, and like it or not, I know that Listicles are here to stay.
With this in mind, here’s my Listicle on the Seven Reasons I Hate Listicles:
1. The Name
Listicle – It sounds a lot like Popsicle and that’s just false advertising now isn’t?
Whenever I see the word Listicle I think of that cool, sweet, tasty summer treat from childhood. But Listicles are nothing like Popsicles; they’re usually just bland and predictable. In fact it’s a good thing they’re free because most times I’d be asking for my money back.
2. They’re never in order
It might just be my O.C.D. kicking in, but prioritizing your lists in ascending or descending order only takes a few minutes longer and can add a sense of authoritative order for your reader.
And since the purpose of online Listicles is engagement, you may reap the added benefit of engaging in more
ridiculous arguments interesting conversations with readers who disagree with your order.
Note: Keep a lawyer on retainer – you may need a quick restraining order for those who really disagree!
3. They’re rarely entertaining
I see very few writers using Listicles for what they’re actually best suited for, which is Humor. Everyone is so obsessed with trying to sound insider hip, trendy, or topical, that we’ve all forgotten funny.
Funny isn’t that hard folks. Here’s an example I just whipped up while writing this sentence:
Four Reasons Why Mating With a Bonobo is a Bad Idea
4. He’ll rip off your face.
3. He’ll rip off your face!
2. The ungrateful bastard never calls the next day.
1. Hey! Did you hear me? HE’LL RIP OFF YOUR FACE!!!
(And did you notice how I put these in order of importance? Pretty slick eh folks?)
4. Listicles are the fast-food of literature
Not everyone has Pulitzer Prize potential, but isn’t the goal of every writer to at least try to inspire or capture the imagination of our readers?
By their very nature Listicles thumb their noses at this, our prime directive.
So the next time your editor tells you they need another Listicle, ask them if you haven’t lobotomized your readers with drivel long enough, and instead offer them your inspirational feature exposé on the dangers of Human/Bonobo crossbreeding.
5. They’re just not informative
I can’t remember the last time I read a Listicle that actually told me something I didn’t already know or couldn’t have figured out for myself. The Five Sexiest Men/Women/Bonobos in Hollywood, really?
Come on People Magazine! Dig a little deeper will ya? Not that I actually care to, but I could’ve figure this one out for myself in less than a minute just from what’s trending on Twitter.
6. They’re so predictable
Just like number 5, this one is a sure sign that you’re just phoning it in. I’m sorry Cosmo but, Five Signs Your Man is Cheating?
Hmmm, well let’s see; he works late a lot, comes home smelling of strange soap or perfume, acts evasive, looks for excuses to leave the house at strange hours, and while making love lately he has taken to calling you Bob even though your name is Penelope.
Did I nail it? Yeah, thought so.
If you really think you’re giving the world anything it needs with stuff like this, you should read my next post. It will be a Listicle of course: Six Reasons I Think You’re Insane.
There is no number seven. I got distracted by a YouTube video with a cute puppy in it and decided to pack it in at six. Fuck it, I’m bored anyway. Maybe we should limit all Listicles to five items because seven just seems too long for my short attention sp…Oh look, another puppy! 🙂 🙂 ❤ ❤
Don’t like it? Well then write your own damn Listicle!
Author’s note: No Bonobos were harmed during the production of this Listicle!