Listicles, X-Men and Top Ten Top Tens

Among the various breeds of online brain-candy, by far one of the most insidious is the so-called “Listicle.” A portmanteau of “list” and “article,” the word sounds like what would result if you tattooed your grocery list on a particular part of the male anatomy (which would probably fit right in with the adventuresome inksters at Whole Foods, actually). Milk, eggs and what else? Permit me to unzip and check my listicle.

The listicle is usually comprised of a thin lead, a series of bullet points and a vague summary. I’ve written dozens – or rather, I’ve filed dozens when I was too hung over or bored to write something that required extra line breaks to fill a column inch. This is not one of those moments, tempting as it is to enumerate the “5 Reasons I Missed My Deadline Again” (No. 3: “Deadline, I thought you said ‘bed lyin’ – so I slept in”) or “3 Ways to Have a 3 Way Without Your Marriage Counselor Trying to Get Involved – with Your Wife.”

List-inclined writers often struggle to get as many words into their work as bullet points. Consequently, their pieces read like Bonnie and Clyde’s Flathead Ford. Sure, it drives but…

This isn’t a problem for me since I usually don’t know enough about any one subject to have more than a couple of bullets about it. And I’ve got to gussy those up with copious amounts of verbiage lest my readers notice the holes in my liberal arts education. Actually, there’s just one hole, but it’s vast and black and inhaled a lot of money into oblivion some years ago.

Predictably, the listicle concept has turned in on itself resulting in listicles about listicles. I’m guilty of having once written, “Top Ten Top Ten Lists.” Last month, my colleague Rachel Edidin, at Wired’s Underwire blog, published “5 Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay, and Why That’s OK.” Obviously, it’s okay – Listicle.co has based its business on the concept. “Listicle is a social blogging platform that allows everyone to create and share listicles,” its site explains. Great, more amateurs pushing out the professionals. Good for you, Internet.

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