5 Reasons I Hate Listicles, and What You Should Do About It

You probably started noticing them as a little kid waiting in the grocery store line with your parents. Ten fashion tips from your favorite stars! Twelve secrets for a flatter tummy! Twenty-five sexy moves that will drive your man wild! As an innocent young thing, you probably wondered (justifiably, in my opinion) what all the fuss was about.

They’re listicles! You know, like a combination of a list and an article: a listicle! And they’re not just for crappy checkout-line magazines anymore – they’ve entered the business mainstream! Don’t believe me? Go to your LinkedIn home page right now and look at the featured articles, right there at the top. If at least one of them isn’t a listicle, someone at LinkedIn isn’t doing their job!

Listicles! I hate them! Here are the top five reasons why – and more important, what you should do about it!

1. “Listicle” is probably the creepiest word ever, even creepier than “moist”!

I can’t decide whether “listicle” sounds more like a quiescently frozen confection or a skin disorder. Maybe both – ick! Worse, it’s a neologism – a word that never needed to exist at all, had some bozo not invented it. That bozo should be tracked down and forced to read every listicle ever published.

2. Listicles are the laziest form of writing!

All right, so Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was a monster bestseller. But does that mean everything has to be a listicle now? Do you really think you’re going to make a big splash by picking some arbitrary topic and making seven dumb observations about it? Instead of, you know, crafting an essay with an actual explicatory structure? I’m guessing Mr. Covey made at least some kind of minimal effort expounding on each of his seven habits instead of just throwing them out there. But I don’t know – I never read it. Did you? All the way to the end? So, are you feeling pretty effective now?

3. Listicles are boring and forgettable!

Seriously, have you ever read one and thought, “Yeah, I think these 10 steps are really going to make a difference for me!” Sure you have. And what were those 10 steps again? You can’t remember, can you? Maybe if the listicle in question is the 10 Commandments you can remember a few of them. Personally, I think the first five of those are kind of “Huh?” and the rest are kind of “Duh!” but then who am I to judge? I do enjoy “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” but I have to admit I don’t remember any of them off the top of my head. Anyway, Wallace Stevens excepted, just because you know how to count doesn’t mean you should count every damn thing.

4. Listicles are nothing but click-bait!

A “thought-leadership” listicle is no better than a grocery store “pick-up-this-magazine-because-you’re-stuck-in-line-anyway” listicle. (And while I’m thinking about it, if everyone is a “thought leader” these days, is there anyone left to be a “thought follower”? But I digress.) Most listicles come from content mills that pay wannabe writers almost nothing for filling out word counts and throwing in some SEO words. The rest come from writers who actually do get paid, but are too lazy to do any real work (see #2). Either way, when you click on one you’re only encouraging them.

5. Listicles are arrogant!

Just because you know how to count, and know how to steal banal ideas (probably from other listicles) to go with each number, doesn’t mean you know what I need to do to become a more, shall we say, highly effective person. You say I need to (1) get up at 4:30 to (2) exercise, then (3) meditate, then (4) plan my day while (5) eating a healthy breakfast, if I want to be highly effective like Margaret Thatcher? Why didn’t you add in (6) become Prime Minister of Britain, (7) schmooze with Ronald Regan, (8) decimate trade unions, (9) privatize utilities, (10) deregulate financial institutions…. You know what? I think I’ll just sleep in.

So what should you do about my hatred of listicles?

Stop writing them. Don’t send me links to them. And most important, don’t hold me to any of the rules, strictures or advice you’ve read in them. That’s what you can do!

Now, don’t get me started on infographics!