Summer’s coming to an end. The new season of television shows is about to premiere. A presidential election is just two months away. Snooki had a baby. Things are happening, people. And when events occur, the best way to deal with them is to write a list of ten things that captures various points of view and salient pieces of information. Here’s a list of ten things to make sure you include in any thorough list of ten things.
1. Sensible, Compelling Example
Lead off strong. If you’re listing ten reasons Paul Ryan would make an unsuitable vice president, start with his feelings on Medicare or his views on women’s health issues. Begin a list of Oscar contenders with any movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson or starring Daniel Day Lewis. You have the reader’s attention. Now reward them and gain their trust by providing them useful and interesting information. Your first example should put your best foot forward as an authority on the matter at hand.
2. Something Totally Impractical
Now that the reader is on your side, feel free to provide information that is technically accurate but hilariously implausible. Proffer stress-relief tips such as, “Take an all-inclusive cruise around the world!” or “Convert your apartment into a sensory deprivation tank!” Give money saving advice like, “Instead of eating out for every meal, make a giant drum of chili, freeze it so it stays good, and eat a Meatsicle thrice a day.”
3. “Shocking” Counterintuitive Suggestion
Don’t forget to stir up a little controversy by flouting conventional wisdom. If you’re giving advice, include one tip that flies in the face of traditional logic. I recommend, “Boost Your Immune System By Licking Floors!” or “Find Love By Closing Yourself Off To All Emotion.”
If you’re listing the ten best or worst of something, just pick something from the other column and cram it into your list. Tout something as “So Bad It’s Good!” (For example, list Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” as one of your Top 10 Christmas Carols.) Or go the other way and declare how overrated something great is. Go ahead and list The Godfather in your 10 Worst Mob Movies. It can’t possibly be as good as people say, can it?
4-5. List of Related Items/ Two Things That Are Almost the Same
Running out of ideas for your list of sexiest body parts? Throw “abs” on there and knock out six bullet points with one fell sit-up. Losing steam listing the 10 most influential singer/ songwriters? Try listing Acoustic Bob Dylan and Electric Bob Dylan. They’re practically two different people, right? Conversely, save space on a bloated, thoughtless list of “Greatest Superhero Movies!” by including each of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films together. Voila! You’ll be finished in no time!
6. Unnecessarily Retro Example
Don’t forget: Retro is cool. You can gain major hipness points for proposing corsets as a throwback fall fashion or suggesting Proust as a beach read. Remember: No list of best guitar players is complete without a bluesman who no one has ever heard of. For bonus retro cred, try to find one with an old timey nickname like Junebug or Crankyfingers.
7. Absurdly Modern Example
Include a podcast on a list of 21st Century Literature. List a TV show that has aired once amongst the greatest television comedies or dramas. Pretend Daniel Craig is the best James Bond. You’ll seem cutting edge for adopting new ideas so quickly!
8. Platitude/ Piece of Common Sense Advice
It’s hard to come up with ten original thoughts. Avoid that quandary by going to the well of cliché or popular advice. For any list of advice, throw in universally effective slogans such as, “Keep a positive attitude!” and, “Be flexible!” Those pieces of advice are almost always effective. Often, clichés are more palatable when they rhyme. Reminding people to work smarter, not harder is a classic. Take it and run with it.
9. Ridiculous Stretch
Toward the end of your list, take the opportunity to anger your readers by suggesting something totally preposterous. Get your readers all riled up. Making people angry is the same as saying something thoughtful. Really stretch the boundaries of the parameters you’ve placed on your list. You’ll really get everyone’s goat by suggesting a chess-playing robot or sports-predicting sea creature as one of the People of the Year. Include the singer from Blues Traveler on a list of All Time Greatest Rappers because sometimes he sang fast. Get creative. Piss people off. That’s what lists of 10 things are for!
10. Invitation to Ignore Previous Nine Items On List
No list of 10 things could possibly provide a comprehensive overview or summary of a nuanced or expansive issue. For your tenth list item, make sure you remind people of that. Encourage them to reject the information you’ve curated for them. Make sure they know it’s okay with you if they decide to take a contrary point of view or course of action. Or don’t. Feel free to disregard this advice. Use your tenth bullet point for whatever you want. What do I know?