How To Write a List Article

A guide to writing a listicle

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Listicles are everywhere on the internet. Common examples include:

7 Ways to be Happier;

10 Habits of Highly Successful People;

8 Signs he is cheating on you.

They are popular for a reason. They are informative and summarise the information neatly for the customer/reader. They can also be profitable according to Charles V Main, who wrote a guide on writing a list article. Below is a short summary of the main points of his guide.

1. The idea

According to Main, the purpose of a list article is to provide information to the reader. They are designed to solve problems. He suggests looking for a problem, researching it and then writing about it. Alternatively writing from your own experience about a problem you managed to solve. What bothers you? Pet Peeves or concerns are all great material for a list article. The title for a list article will usually follow the following format.

  • The 10 ways to Improve Yourself
  • 8 Ways to Write Better
  • 9 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
  • The 6 Sexiest Cities to Visit

The internet is awash with listicle articles because people want to read them. They want to read a short concise summary of ways to handle a problem.

2. The Research

After finding an idea for your listicle, the next step is the research. There are three sources of research according to Main; yourself, experts and published sources. You can draw on your own experience or look to experts. The purpose of your research is to find worthwhile information that people want to read.

3. Writing the Article

According to Main, the list articles has four parts to it. They are the introduction, the theme, the list and the conclusion. The introduction should not be too long and the theme should be explained early on the article. In the list, you should provide the reader with research. According to Main, “the theme is the entire thrust of the article stated in one sentence.” For example, the theme for an article on 8 Ways to be Happier, could be:

I have found that spending more time with loves ones and less time on your phone is the route to a happier life.

4. The List

There are four types of list articles.

The Helpful Hint List: this is the most common form a listicle. The purpose is to offer helpful hints. For example, 5 Ways to Keep in Shape These Holidays. The hints should be short and provide the reader with useful information. Main suggests putting the two strongest hints at the beginning and the end. This will entice the reader and leave them feeling satisfied when they finish your article.

The Problem-Solving List: this is similar to the Helpful Hint List except it starts with a personal problem or a problem plaguing society. The rest of the article then provides some solutions to this problem personally tested by the author. Such as 9 Ways I Managed to Stay Fit This December.

The Step-by-Step List: each component in this list is necessary. Each step must be explained clearly. Be careful to point out any problems the reader may confront while following your steps and provide a solution to this problem. For example: How to Make a Homemade Christmas Tree.

The General Information List: This is popular with travel blogs. Information about a place or the best places to eat or drink is common in this list. These are the “best of” lists. For example, The Best Restaurants to Eat at in New York This Christmas.

5. The Conclusion

After the List, is the Conclusion. There are a number of ways to end a List Article and the below are suggestions.

Relate the conclusion to the lead: the lead of a listicle entices the reader in. This can be related to the end of the article. For example, the lead of this article is a guide to writing a listicle. The conclusion: There are many ways to write a listicle, however the above is merely a rough guideline to get you started. The above is not a strict rule book but merely an outline to get those fingers typing.

This ending will give your article a sense of completeness.

Restate your theme: Main calls this the, “And so..” ending. What is it you were trying to say in your article. If you are writing a list on being more productive. Restate this as your conclusion. For example, There are many ways to be more productive. There is a lot of advice out there on how to be productive. But the five steps I have outlined are tried and tested and will not fail. All you have to do is put in some practice.

The go-to conclusion: This suits well with a step by step or problem-solving list. In conclusion, you can tell the reader to try out your advice and get to it. For example, Go on and start writing your listicle!.

Skip the conclusion: The last number in your list article can be the conclusion. You don’t need to have a formal conclusion if the article naturally ends at the last point. You could simply say, “and the last point is..”

What are you waiting for, go write a listicle that is informative and well researched and ends with grace.

References: Writing and Selling the List Article, Charles V Main in Handbook of Magazine Writing, Jean M. Fredette (ed.) Writer’s Digest,1988

Written by

I am a Lawyer, Writer, Reader and Traveller. From Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing to find my voice. Fortune favours the brave.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store