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5 Secrets of Effective Listicles
By Paul Krantz

Despite their funny name, listicles are eyeball magnets. If you've read articles like "10 Surprising Ways to Burglar-Proof Your Home" or "Things you never knew about farts," you know how alluring lists can be. Whether in print or on the web, articles that promise to boil down a topic to an easy-to-read line-up are mental catnip.

To create an effective listicle, follow these five simple rules:

1. Get a number into the title. Though a successful listicle can get by without a number in the title, readership rises when there is a numeral up front (not spelled out, no matter what the copy editor says!)

2. Be reasonable. Forget about 327 ways to do ANYTHING! Who has time? And don't short your readers with 3 items. Settle into the sweet spot with 5 to 12 brief -- I repeat, brief! -- items. Pro tip: Shoot for 5,7,9 or 11 items. Odd numbers are inherently more interesting. Ask any designer.

3. Number your items. Use a numbered boldface lead-in or brief numbered title for each item. Without numbers, the reader’s mind becomes unmoored. Take my word for it.

4. Include images. Everyone loves photos. But if one item has an image, they all should. Pro tip: Images are particularly critical for web listicles because they can be transformed into page view-boosting slide shows.

5. Be serious. Don't be fooled into thinking that listicles appeal only to slackers looking for ten minutes of wacky entertainment. If listicles are good enough for the Harvard Business Review, they're OK for your company newsletter, intranet or customer communications.
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