January 31, 2014
These days, it seems as if the headlines that fly by on Twitter are a never-ending stream of numbers, such as: “54 Reasons You Should Go to a Dog Surfing Competition Before You Die.”
And, depending on how busy I am, I tend to click on these. (I usually hate myself later.)
The listicle — simply a list-based article — has become a staple for online journalism and an easy way to package content for the overburdened, mobile news consumer. While sites like and Cracked and BuzzFeed have popularized the listicle, they’ve been around for ages in print. I even recall a few articles from the early days of Tactics with headlines like “5 Ways to Improve Your News Releases.”
An often-cited New Yorker article from Dec. 2 noted that such list-based headlines catch our eye by standing out in a stream of content, spatially organizing the information and promising a finite story and an easy reading experience.
Old-school writers, editors, readers and other purists have grumbled about the listicle’s increasing popularity — yet another nail in the coffin of journalism. Still, listicles have their supporters. In an article titled “5 Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay, and Why That’s OK” from Jan. 8, writer Rachel Edidin of Wired says: “Lists are not a substitute for long-form reporting; nor is long-form reporting a substitute for lists. They’re different formats, suited to different subjects and different ends.”
So, in the listicle spirit, I offer you, “5 Amazing Things That You Will Learn About Writing in This Issue of Tactics.”
Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy the rest of our annual writing issue.