Popular opinion might say that David Letterman made the listicle famous with his “The Top 10” segment. But smart marketers have been putting listicles into good practice for a l-o-n-g time.

Just because it’s a fun thing to know and you never know when you need a cool fact to spice up your happy hour…the listicle—a combination of the words “list” and “article”—is a writing technique that uses a numeric list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with enough supporting copy to be called an “article”.  It has also been suggested that the word is reminiscent of “popsicle”, emphasizing the fun but “not too nutritious” nature of the listicle.

In the same way lists make for easy, bite-size consumption, the listicle format allows for much the same without the intimidation or monotony of an article. It suggests informative content instead of fluff, and allows the reader to jump around or dive deeper into the content as they choose. Sometimes lists could benefit from explanations—listicles are a perfect solution for those too.

So what’s the best listicle length to use?

Should you follow Mr. Letterman’s lead and use the numeral 10?  The firm Vennage recently studied the performance of 121,233 listicle articles and social media posts. And yes indeed, the number 10 won the race! Behind the revered 10 is 5, followed by 2. (It’s also worth noting: Headlines that use numerals are more successful than ones that are written out, i.e. ten.)

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