The Three Things (+1) You Need to Know

In recent years, there has been a trend (in which I have fully participated) toward titling blog posts, articles and books with a number. For example, here are three posts that I've seen in the past week:

- 10 Things I Learned from Failure
- The Seven Signs of the Consulting Apocalypse
- Three Leadership Steps to Defuse Tense Situations
- The 2 Secrets to Creating Meaningful Change

Did this trend start with Stephen Covey's mega-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People back in 1989? Who knows.

Why is it so popular? An online content editor once recommended it to me, saying that readers will be more likely to take the time to view your content if there is a number in the title. The thinking is, I guess, that if they know how many key points you will be covering, they will be able to quickly cut to the meat of the post, and save time.

Some people, I've discovered, question the practice. Recently, one person responded to a 10-point list of leadership practices with the reply, What if there were an 11th practice, or a 12th? Where would you put them if every letter is already taken?

In my mind, there is always an 11th or a 12th and so on. The value of numbering in your article is not to say that you've covered everything. Rather, it's the result of a selective thought process, of prioritizing and focusing on a vital few items.

So here is a little guide for bloggers that I call The Three Things you need to know about writing such lists:

It's your call: It's your blog so you can call it as you see it.

Someone's not going to like it: Your readers are entitled to their reaction and opinion. In fact, the stronger their reaction (pro or con), the better. Maybe they will leave a comment.

They can write their own list: As populated as the blogosphere is, there is plenty of room for more voices. Hopefully, they will start their own blog and have at it.

Oh! And one more:

You can always add another point: Even Stephen Covey came up with an 8th Habit years later!

I wonder when the 9th habit will surface...

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday May 8, 2011.


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