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Top 5 Things I Like About Top 5 Lists

Updated on May 12, 2016

Top 5 lists are very popular with article-based websites. They’ve even got their footing in YouTube, as there are entire channels dedicated to Top 5, Top 10, etc. lists.

There’s just something about the form that readers love. Here are my top 5 reasons why I like this type of article.


5. They Are Quick and Easy to Make

This isn’t exactly rocket science. The hardest part of a Top 5 list is finding the top 5 of what you’re going to talk about. Are you going to write about your top 5 favorite bands? Are you going to write about the top 5 reasons a particular band is good? Are you going to write about the top 5 moments in “Captain America: Civil War?”

Once you set the conditions of your list, the rest is rudimentary. It’s either your opinion or purely backed up by data (i.e. “Top 5 highest grossing films of all time).

As long as you give a short paragraph explaining your choices, your readers will know where you’re coming from, even if they disagree.

4. It Doesn’t Have to be Just 5

You’re not constrained to 5 choices. If you want, you can pick 6, 7, 8, or whatever suites your fancy. Doug Walker “The Nostalgic Critic” does top 11 lists, because he likes to “go one step further,” which helps differentiate his videos from other Top 10 lists.

Just know that Top 5 lists have become popular for a reason. They are easy to manufacture, easy to read, and work for just about anything.


3. You Can be Clever With Them

Earlier this year, I wrote an article titled “Five ways ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ was worse than the prequels.” Episode VII is still a definitively better movie than the prequel trilogy combined, but there were some elements I felt the prequels did better (mainly its ambition, scope, and lore).

A good film can have elements that worked better in bad film. Similarly, good ideas can come from bad people, and bad ideas can come from good people. You can use your Top 5 list to challenge how people think about their icons, ideals, and perceptions about the world.

Note that I didn’t title the article “Top 5 ways ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ was worse than the prequels.” There are subtle modifications of “Top 5” to make your work seem less click-baity. If you’re bold, you could get rid of the numbering altogether (i.e. “How ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ was worse than the prequels”), but it all depends on your preference.

2. They Are Usually Purely Opinionated

Unless you use outside research to definitively rank something (i.e. Top 5 oil manufacturers, ranked by net growth), your list is your opinion. If somebody disagrees with your opinion, they can do so respectfully, as long as you explain why each piece on your list was included and ranked in the way that it was.

This works out well for online personalities, as it allows their audience to get a better understanding of their preferences. Opinionated lists can and have been abused, however, especially among highly productive outlets that produce clickbait content.

1. They Can Inspire Others to Make Their Own Lists

This is true especially of opinionated lists. They are simply fun to make and compare. They can start a discourse that can encompass a large portion of the online community. They simply bring people together!


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