I read a whole bunch of websites on the daily (to the tune of 10-20), and one thing I have noticed cropping up more and more are lists everywhere. I enjoy a list as much as the next gal who is into organization. Post-it notes with numbered to-do’s are how I stay productive at work. A list in a notebook by my bed is how I fall asleep at night without worrying about the things I need to do the next day. Programmed cell phone alarms (which are really lists broken down into bullet points) are how I remember to do mega important things for my social life, like remind my book club to show up at our meeting, or buy those awesome concert tickets the absolute minute they go on sale.
That being said, I’m getting rather sick of 6 Reasons I Should Do [Insert any activity], 10 New Products YOU MUST BUY, 8 Workout Tricks That Will Change Your Life. I remember the days when this style of writing was a novelty. I would scan the website, and think, “Why YES, how did they know I would love to hear 7 things that will revolutionize my life, and how thoughtful they let me know in advance how long the article is.” They are easy to consume, and kind of fun to click through when you’re in a mid-afternoon daze and want something easy to read.
Don’t get me wrong, I get why websites are doing it. Thanks to iPhones, the collective American attention span has decreased to the size of a puppy in a room full of toys (in my totally scientific assessment). There are so many articles to read, so many ways to read them, and so many different sites posting about similar things. Websites want to make their content easy to digest, and give all the busy people a sense of how long it will take them to read it. It’s all a big strategy to encourage more clicks on more articles. But still, it’s making my reading experience a little bland now that everyone is doing it. And even further? I think it’s a bit of a cop out. Why write a coherent article broken up into logical paragraphs when you can just make a bulleted list, and add a few sentences with no transitional statements? It’s chopping up the fun of a good long read into disjointed mini-stories packaged as one.
There are some topics that only merit a few sentences a piece, and it can be interesting to group a whole bunch of items into one fun series. It’s just something to think about – are we over using the list? And can it be done a little better (think Slate’s 2M to read summary in the sidebar)? I think it can.