Lists

Got to thinking about my fondness for lists. In technical writing, lists can be extremely useful. To start, lists can stand out from the rest of the text, making the information easy to spot. Vertical formatting can make a list easy to scan as well. A numbered list is designed to be instructive and easy to follow in order, whereas items in a bulleted list can be taken in any order. In addition, both numbered and bulleted lists are easy to reference.

Lists are so concise! Without extra wording, the formatting of a list conveys information. For that reason, the formatting can be important.  Here are some things to remember when creating a list:

  • Begin your list with a complete sentence that indicates the purpose of the list, and follow it with a colon.
  • Use parallel phrasing. In other words, the items should be similarly worded.
  • Use lists consistently within a document.
  • Avoid overuse. Too many lists in one document is annoying.

Lists are used everywhere. A Google search (the ultimate list-maker) rendered only one article on using lists in creative writing, but there were a bazillion links to lists that we are all familiar with, like People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, David Letterman’s Top 10 List, Craig’s List, Angie’s List, etc.

We see new “listcles” every week in blogs and news magazines. (A listicle is an article in list format, according to Wikipedia.) Listverse.com is a website devoted to nothing but listicles.

Certain lists are vital to our economy, like the NASDAQ. RSS feeds help us keep current, and FAQs can be a godsend. Schindler’s List is historic and meaningful. And my playlist can really make me happy.

Grocery lists can be revealing. Check out http://www.grocerylists.org/. This is one of my favorites:

Here are some of my favorite creative lists:

I’ve Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash, an epic list.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to:
Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma,
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,
Tocapillo, Baranquilla, and Perdilla, I’m a killer.

I’ve been to:
Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,
Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa,
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,
Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake,
Grand Lake, Devils Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake.

I’ve been to:
Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika,
Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,
Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport,
Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport,
Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina,
Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean-a.

I’ve been to:
Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado,
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado,
Larimore, Admore, Haverstraw, Chatanika,
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika,
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.

U2 does a good job with lists. From their song Bad, a refrain of rhyming words that paint a picture.

This desperation
Dislocation
Separation
Condemnation
Revelation
In temptation
Isolation
Desolation
Let it go

From Walk On:

Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme…

This is a lot of hullabaloo about silly ol’ lists, but it is interesting to note how we use them in our lives. My opinion is they are under-appreciated.

Advertisements