DIY: How To Write a Listicle
Listicles are great bite-sized news products. Even for people with major news fatigue, listicles offer readers an opportunity to get smarter about what’s going down in the world. They break down trends, reactions, or insights into tweet-length bullet points, but still touch on the kind of greater insight you might find in a commentary or feature.
What makes a good listicle?
- A super-focused angle — It’s not a thesis. It’s a curated list that gives you a simple insight into something specific.
- A conversational/light tone — Though it’s possible to touch on serious topics by turning deep quotes or facts into a list. Write as if you were talking to your friends or peers.
- Insight or surprise — Don’t tell people what they already know.
- A personal angle — Good listicles are grounded in your experience or expertise. They may even incorporate a first-person voice.
- The right number of items — At least five is a good goal. Odd numbers are better than even numbers. It’s too many things if you’re repeating yourself or if you feel you’d get bored reading your own list.
- Stories that could become bigger features or commentaries — Listicles are a great bite-sized product on your way to telling or reporting a bigger story. You can get surprising depth out of a listicle.
- Great visuals — Choose your GIFS wisely. Avoid stereotypes. If you are featuring people in your images, consider the balance of race/gender/location in your choices. Keep it fresh and avoid old, tired tropes.
- Solid sources — Is your list reported? Tell us who you talked to. Is it based in your own expertise? Tell us who you are (and why you’re in the know). Is it based on interviews? Tell us with whom and why their opinion matters. Did you do online research? Embed your links.
Examples of past YR listicles
- Advice From Mom For The #MeToo Era
- This Week In Politics Was So Crazy, We’re Telling It In Cat GIFs
- 5 Job Seeking Tips to Help Women Identify Creepy, Sexist Employers
Anatomy of a Listicle
HEADLINE = Tell us what the list is about and how many things are in it. SEO language is a plus. Target audience = 17-27
If it’s a numbered listicle (e.g. “5 Things That Make The Summer After High School Awkward AF”), put the number in the headline.
[PHOTO/GIF] = main image
[INTRO GRAF] = Give us a sense of why this list connects to a bigger trend or takeaway, but leave your newsy tone at home. Listicles are light, which means the voice should be more akin to a column or a tweet. First person voice is appropriate if you are drawing on your insight into a particular topic.
[TRANSITION SENTENCE] = This is a one or two sentence section where you tell us in a very straightforward way what the list we’re about to read is all about.
1) ITEM 1 TITLE (AKA SUBHED)
This is important for whoever is entering the listicle into WordPress: For each subhed, use the Header 3 <h3> subhed tag instead of <strong> or <b> so it stands out better. And add the number of each item INSIDE of the <h3> tag.
[PHOTO/GIF/VIDEO] – Ideally at least 1120px (width) and height should be between 600-900px. If pulling from social (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube), grab the embed code vs. the screen shot. For .JPGs or .GIFs, send us the original file and credits language. If using GIPHY, or other GIF library, send us the source URL and comply with their guidelines for sharing and credit.
[SHORT DESCRIPTION] – Tell us in a few sentences some context on why this item is in the list. Again, flex a column tone vs. a news tone. Let your expertise and personality show.
2) ITEM TITLE
3) ITEM TITLE
4) ITEM TITLE
5) ITEM TITLE (minimum 5 items)
A few sentences here that brings it back to your voice, emphasizes your point and why this whole thing matters. Make it feel like a real conclusion.