Going through my RSS feeds this morning I was once again beset by reams of article titles with claims of 10 items you should take on a holiday, 20 CSS tricks everyone should know, 11 iPhone apps that will make your grandmother orgasm and so on and so forth.
Can we stop this pathetic enumeration of self-help blogshit please? To post n ways of doing something in the hope that a catchy title may ensnare a few self-absorbed or paranoid web surfers may have been novel advice for bloggers once upon a time, but it has become cliché and the numbers and topics are getting more ridiculous. I mean, who needs to read a post about 7 ways Forrest Gump can improve your self confidence?
The history behind this flappy piece of copywriting dribble is unknown, but it’s been awfully catching. Somehow it has even become absorbed into the body of advice (known as ‘good practice’) given to aspiring authors and others looking for easy ways to avoid agonising over head lines.
The 5 ways of truth
So, anyway as a retort I thought I’d share five pitiful pieces of advice to help all those template-worshipping, google-hungry tip-bandits out there to move on:
Don’t make the number more important than the message
To limit, or stretch, yourself to provide six or seven or 25 tips on making a hat out of salmon or whatever means that you’re spending more time on conforming to a structure than on what you’re writing. A good argument, or a list of lucid tips, doesn’t need to be fenced in and will flow naturally anyway if the content is well-written. Ever heard of catchy titles?
If you write good content they’ll come anyway
Oh my God! 40 Photoshop tutorials you must read! Digg this and I’ll be famous even though I’m just linking to the top 40 Google results and haven’t contributed anything to the broader sphere of knowledge nor do I know anything about Photoshop! Loser.
Lists can be great. Big lists are not.
Sure, people who use RSS to aggregate their news are really going to spend more than 15 seconds reading your 20-page article on 100 movie bloopers you must see before you go to the toilet.
Don’t make the web boring
People are copycats. It’s natural. If I see someone wearing a particularly dashing pair of jeans on Oxford Street, I’ll scour the opportunity shops until I find something similar. But if you’re smart enough to be able to create your own blog, you probably also possess sufficient imagination to do something new on the web or, at least, not to follow what a quadrillion people have done already. The web is exciting, it’s malleable and there are (mostly) no rules. Don’t turn it into a newspaper.
There is no five
When you realise the truth, that there are more than 12 methods of pruning nasal hair or 8 foods you should eat to become Pavarotti, you might just be on the way to writing in the authoritative voice you thought you would have achieved from your sad numbered list.