- It’s good to structure your list around some achievable set of ideas. Most of us have ten fingers, ten toes. Why not ten ideas? (As for twenty, see number two, below).
- Readers will make time for a list of ten ideas, but unless there is something compelling them, like a grade, or desperation, most will skip right over a list with twenty ideas.
- Lists can be in any order. This is a matter of personal privilege for the list maker, since the list readers will average out in their preferences. Some people prefer to save the best for last, like dessert… but some people enjoy dessert before the broccoli. Some people won’t even eat the broccoli. Some people will skip dessert. What you want to avoid is reading your list publicly if you have one of those stringy pieces of spinach in your teeth. Or broccoli. Often a mirror check before going onstage will help in this regard, but if you can’t manage a mirror check, then you can at least swoosh some water around in your mouth in hopes of removing noisome material. Don’t swoosh it for too long though or you will draw unwanted attention.
- Items in your list should contain explanatory context. Without explanation, people might not understand why you have included an idea in your list. (See number 5, below).
- Numbered lists are effective no matter what the medium. If you plan to create the list as part of a team building exercise it is good to prepare by bringing writing materials and something to write on. In a pinch you can use colored markers on windows, or you can make your list on the sidewalk. If you choose this latter route, then it would behoove you to use a marking medium that is easily removed, since maintenance crews and municipal ordinances frown on spray paint. (See number 5, above).
- Some lists are meant to be alphabetized. Numbers are often redundant in this context. If you are working with an alphabetized list, you usually will skip the numbering. On the other hand, if the enumeration ihas value, for example when a bird-watcher is putting together a list of all the different kinds of birds he has ever seen, then both alphabetizing and numbering may be called for. In that case though, you would hope it wasn’t a list of ten items or the guy would be a pretty punk bird watcher. Or maybe a newbie. I don’t want to get into the ad birdinem arguments here, so suffice it to say as a general rule that you either number or alphabetize, but don’t bother with both.
- It’s better to prepare your list of ten items before you step on-stage, or you may get to number eight and — you know — like, draw a blank.
- Consider using bullet points, and not numbering the list.
- A list of ten items numbered from 0 to 9 is typographically more pleasing than one that starts with 1 and moves to 10. The displacement of the second digit can mess up your formatting entirely, so you may want to start with zero. Starting with zero eliminates the need for the extra keystrokes involved in getting the ones column to line up. Some people don’t care, and then numbers one through nine appear in a column above the leading digit in the ten, but I find this to be ugly and recommend against it. Also, I would avoid proportional fonts if you are handing out copies of the list. With proportional fonts nothing lines up right. Ever.
- The numbering backward thing is dumb, and not even Letterman can make it funny.
Ten Ideas on Numbered Lists
Posted in Verbalistics