Five Things You Should Never Do in a Top Five List!


Opening up a top-five list can be tricky. Just like with anything else in writing, a sort of hook is required to draw people in. The headline is exactly that, but once they’re in you need to keep them there. That’s where the opening comes in.

You need to write something that’ll grab their attention and glue them to your words like uptown pokies on flypaper. Or a mammoth in quicksand. That being said, however, you don’t want this section to drag on too long otherwise your reader will just get bored and leave.

You want something that’s concise and snappy without meandering on and on and on and on as if you’re trying to fill out some word quota for an essay. Remember, your reader is here for a list, and you need to pay off that expectation.

You know, I’m suddenly reminded of a scene from Fox’s Family Guy (great show by the way) where one of the children, Chris I believe, takes a job to take care of old people in a nursing home and half of their work is just sitting and listening to these geezers ramble on and on in circles about nothing with no conclusive point they’re trying to reach. I remember that being really funny and… what was I talking about?


1: Start the List with the Number 1 Item

You’ve probably heard that advice before, “end with a bang”, right? That’s why you should always save the best for last and conclude your list with your number one entry.

Otherwise, you’re reader gets the best you have to offer and it’s just all downhill from there, and that’ll not only irritate your reader, but it’ll cause them to click off and that’s the last thing you want. Remember, readers read articles from top to bottom, and changing that up doesn’t help you in the slightest.

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2: Make up Content

Another popular idiom is “write what you know”, and who knows what you know better you, you know? It’s really obvious when a writer doesn’t actually know anything about the topic they’re writing about because everything they write ends up just sounding vague and lacking in any kind of substance. So write a list, check it twice, and, uh, just keep doin’ what you’re doin’, I guess.

3: Write what You Know

Fake it till you make it. This advice works in all kinds of situations. Do you have zero confidence in public speaking? Well, fake it until you are actually confident in your public speaking. Do you feel like you’re unqualified to be ranking X, Y, and Z in a list? Don’t worry, just fake it and then feel awesome when nobody fact-checks it anyway. Whenever I feel unqualified for talking about a subject I know nothing about, there’s a quote I always remind myself of to inspire me:

“The difference between the truth and a lie is who believes it.”

–Abraham Lincoln, on The Golden Girls

4: (Do) Shoehorn in some Honorable Mentions

The idea behind honorably mentioning something is that if you have too many things to list, but can’t be bothered to actually add them into your list, you can just cram them in right at the end. Usually, it’s placed right before you reveal the number one item on the list, to let the excitement for what awaits simmer a bit.

5: Lie about the List Count

It’s important that you do actually have five fully fleshed out items for your top five list. If you don’t and have less, your audience will feel cheated and you’ll be made fun of for not knowing how to count. And if you don’t have enough items to flesh out, make a top-four list. But, yeah, don’t do that. Never. Nope.