How to Write a Good Top 10 List

DetroitDJ
Posted: 1/16/2011 5:36:07 PM
Writing the List

15. Ideal length is 250 to 300 words. It's not that this is meant to limit your ideas or anything, it's just a practical consideration. People tend to avoid giant walls of text, and stop reading after a couple paragraphs per game. If you want them to read everything you have to say, try to keep it in this word range to keep your audience. That said, if you consciously choose to exceed this (as I often, often do), that's fine: just understand the give-and-take that comes with it. Regardless, it's better to write too much than too few.

16. Use proper grammar and spelling. Top 10 lists that are featured go on the front page of a site that gets millions of visitors a day. We don't know how many hits a featured list gets necessarily, but suffice to say that it's a lot. So, treat the medium with a little respect. Copy your text over to Word to spell-check it before submitting. Use proper grammar, and at least a slightly formal writing style: avoid internet slang and try to write in a normal style, without over-using ellipses or emoticons. This will not only help your list get posted in the first place, but it'll help it have a more professional air to it.

16. DDJ recommends topic first, then items, then intro, then conclusion. This is more of a personal suggestion, and other writers might disagree, but there's a certain order I recommend for writing the actual text of a list. First, start with your topic, formalize the criteria, and select the games. Then, write the descriptions for each of the 10 games (preferably in order, so you can refer backwards more easily). Then write the introduction and the conclusion. The reason for this is that ideally, your introduction sets the frame for your list and your conclusion summarizes it; it's hard to know what you're framing when you haven't written the items yet. That said, it can also be easier to write the individual items in the context of some frame, so the other way has its benefits, too. Experiment on your own and see what works best for you.

17. No one likes a wall of text. Remember, you can now use line breaks, so make use of them to break up your paragraphs into readable, topical chunks. Italics and bold text are kosher, too, so use those for emphasis instead of asterisks or capitalized words. That's about all I can say about that.

18. Have a formula. This helps both you and the reader. Ten 300-word write-ups can be intimidating, both to write and to read. It's open, it's ambiguous, and it provides little help to what you should be writing. So do yourself a favor and break it up a bit. On every write-up you could, for example, spend a paragraph describing the game, a paragraph describing the aspect that fits your list, and a paragraph describing why it ranks where it does. With formatting, you can even make this even more formal: in my Best-Of-Their-Genre series of lists, each write-up is explicitly broken into three sections: describing a genre, describing the game I chose, and describing other good games in that genre. This helps you write the list by breaking it into manageable chunks, and helps readers read the list for the same reason.

19. Be consistent. Whether you have a formula or not, try to stick to writing approximately the same amount about each item on your list. Nothing screams, "This list was written just for this game!" louder than nine 100-word write-ups followed by a 1000-word essay on your top choice. Readers will appreciate it, too, and it helps the writing process to write within restrictions.

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