isticles are not only great staples for seasoned freelancers, but are also a good way for new writers to break into print. I have been writing these bite-sized, easily digestible articles for years. Listicles used to be called refrigerator articles, because folks would cut these informational short pieces out of the newspaper and hang them on the fridge for easy reference. Also called list articles or round-ups, these can be written on just about any theme: humor, fun facts, pop culture, or “how-to” service pieces. Listicles have two main parts: an introduction and the list. A closing paragraph is optional, usually depending on the publication.
Look through your Facebook feed or the covers of magazines at the grocery store for examples of published listicles. Here are three I saw today: Shape magazine: “16 Foods for Peak Energy,” Yoga magazine: “13 Ways to Break Out of a Rut,” and In Style magazine: “Four Rules for Matching Prints.”
Once you start looking, you will see them everywhere! Want to try your hand at writing a listicle? It’s so easy! Just follow the steps outlined below.
Listicles can be written on just about any theme: humor, fun facts, pop culture, or “how-to” service pieces.
Start by brainstorming ideas and themes. The best articles are about something you’ve experienced, or a subject you are interested in. Have you figured out fun ways to get your kids to eat their veggies? Or do you have the lowdown on the best hiking trails for families in your locality? Grab a notebook, pick a theme, and see if you can scribble down five to ten ideas that could become bullet points for a list. Don’t worry if you don’t have many items; you can add more by doing what writers do best—research! For example, while writing an article titled, “Save Money and the Environment by Using Green Homemade Cleaners,” I was able to easily write down several green cleaning methods that I use in my own home. But because I don’t have either granite or tile in my house, I read up on environmentally-friendly cleaning tricks for those to add to my list.
Once you have your theme and several bullet points, start writing your article.
Your intro should explain to readers what your listicle is about and why this information will be useful. In other words, why should they read this list?
Here’s the intro to one of my most popular articles, “8 Truly Useful Gifts for New Parents.”
Headed to a baby shower in the next few months? Then you will probably be ogling those cute onesies, soft toys, and blankets in the baby section while shopping for the perfect gift. But how about getting the parents-to-be a truly useful present? Here are some items experienced parents know will be greatly appreciated.
Make Your List:
Next, each item should have a bullet point that states the item or idea in bold, followed by a comment, short explanation, or even hyperlink to a product if applicable. Feel free to add humor or personal anecdotes for flavor.
Here’s the first item in the article mentioned above:
Handheld Vacuum Cleaner: A vacuum that charges and is cordless is even better. These are great for when baby starts throwing food, and all of life’s little messes.
Some bullet points will require more explanation than a couple of lines, especially if you are offering ideas for crafts or activities. Here’s one such example from one of my craft articles: “7 Indoor Winter Activities.”
Jack Frost Paintings: This is another fun activity that uses Epsom salt to form crystals. Mix equal parts Epsom salt and warm water. Give kids paint brushes of various widths, and they can dip the brushes into the Epsom salt solution and paint snowflakes or other designs onto dark-colored construction paper. Dark blue and black-colored paper works best. As the water evaporates from the paper, beautiful crystals are left behind.
Not all listicles require a conclusion, as they are supposed to be short, sweet, and to the point. I add a conclusion when I have more information or ideas to convey that didn’t fit the list format.
The length or word count of your finished article depends on both your theme and the publication. One of my listicles, “5 Party Themes for Tweens and Teens,” had long explanations for each bullet point, so five items was plenty. But if you are writing a round-up of the best parks in your town, readers will want more than two or three options. Most list articles are 700 words or less. Check the guidelines for the publication you are aiming for. For example, Listverse asks for 1,500 words per list, while Scary Mommy’s guidelines say it likes lists under 900 words.
Once you’ve drafted your article, it’s time to edit. Take a deeper look while considering the following:
- Does the introduction tell the reader what they will be reading and why they should read it?
- Is your article written in a warm, conversational tone that invites the reader in?
- Does your list include snappy, short explanations of each item or idea?
- Did you include any tidbits of personal experience or anecdotes?
- For service articles, are your words inspirational with a “you can do it” vibe instead of a judgmental “you should do this” tone?
- Is the article easy to scan quickly and get the basic ideas?
- Did you have a friend or writing partner read it and give you feedback?
Read through your listicle to catch any typos and grammatical mistakes. Once your piece is error-free, it’s time to start targeting publications.
Once your article is polished and you’ve given it a catchy title, start sending out queries to publications. For parenting, home economics, thrift, and family life listicles, check your local newspaper, parenting publications, and women’s magazines. Mommy Blogs are another great spot to place listicles.
Before you send in your article to your targeted publication, make sure to read a few of the pieces in the magazine or blog to get a feel for what they publish, if you hadn’t already before you wrote your listicle. For example, Club Mid loves humorous lists about midlife and anything about the 80s. Scary Mommy offers essays and listicles on just about anything parenting and family related and is aimed at a younger audience.
You can do it! Not only are listicles fun to write, they can sharpen your writing skills and help you get that first—or one-hundredth—clip.
Here are a few bigger markets to aim for:
Scary Mommy: http://www.scarymommy.com/write-for-scary-mommy/
Brain, Child: http://www.brainchildmag.com/about/writers-guidelines/
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon’s work has been featured in the Christian Science Monitor, This Land Press, Brain, MotherChicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, and over fifty regional parenting magazines across the US and Canada. Visit her website at: http://www.tdguerzon.com.
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