top ten tips for top ten lists - someone writing a list in a notebook
<- Return to blog

Top ten tips for top ten lists

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
Speed Reading Mode

In ancient Greece the Socratic dialogue reigned supreme. In the middle ages, we had the illuminated manuscript. Later, in the age of the printing press, we had the journalist's inverted pyramid.

Today, in the information age, thanks to Jakob Neilsen's usability guidance, the dominant form is the top ten list. It is a commonsense, workmanlike structure. It's a handyman rather than a poet. But who cares? It's easy to read and easy to write.

Top ten tips for top ten lists

  • Give context. First explain what the list is for.
  • Use short headlines. Then expand on them.
  • Something new. Try to find something new to say. But...
  • Build on the familiar. Reinforce the list with recognisable truths for extra credibility.
  • A little surprise in the middle, to keep up people's interest.
  • Always use a round number of items. Eight, ten or twelve works well.
  • A long-ish list. Numbered lists don't work for four or fewer items. A list consisting of one item is a bit silly.
  • Use humour. But be subtle.
  • Always leave them wanting more...

New call-to-action

See also

We recommend reading these articles, next...

esg tov - woman at a desk writing with a plant beside her

Enhance your sustainability communications with ESG tone of voice guidelines [free template]

Get a free downloadable ToV template and find out about adapting your tone of voice for ESG...

Product literature - image of books

Top tips to optimise your marketing and sales with product literature

Discover the importance of product literature in marketing and sales, catering to different stages...

Sustainable marketing techniques to reuse and repurpose content - image of two hands on a plant pot with a thriving plant inside

17 sustainable marketing techniques to reuse and repurpose content

Discover how to meet growing demands with a sustainable content marketing strategy. Get tips to...