Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for That Magic Number

So what is the magic number?  No, seriously - what is it?

Maybe it's just me and maybe it's because I've been spending time on websites offering expert advice on things like writing, getting published, changing your life and losing weight, but there seems to be an extraordinarily high rate of numbered lists ricocheting all over our beloved internets.

It seems to me that experts love numbered lists.  I bet it all started with an article telling writers how to write good blog copy. Picture it:

Ten Great Ways to Make Your Blog Better!
1.  Use numbered  lists
2.  Use a number in your title

You see what I mean, right?

So here's a sampling just from my rss feed reader today:

5 Money Lessons from the Third World

Top Five Methods of Procrastination 

Okay, so maybe five is today's the magic number.

Anyway, this got me to thinking - what numbered lists could I write?  I'm lazy and don't want to do a lot of research so I must draw from my strengths.  Let's see...

Eight Ways to Camouflage Cat Vomit Stains on Your Carpet!
This one would be super easy for me to do.  I've been practicing for this one since we got Phoebe the Boy Cat back in 1990.

Three Never Fail Methods for Losing and Gaining The Same Four Pounds in One Week!
I could speak to this with authority even with one vocal cord tied behind my back.  Although that title may need some polishing.  There may be too many numbers....

How To Make Those Seven Deadly Sins Less Deadly in Six Easy Steps
Okay, this one might take more "research."

Oh and deadly sins - no matter how many there are - don't get an exclamation point.  That would just seem to scream bad taste.

What else?  What else?

Four Moves Any Great Lover Should Use.  Every time!
Now that gets an exclamation point.
P.S.  I will not divulge whether I am the great lover or if I've been on the receiving end of a great lover.  Rest assured there's no knuckle involved.

Three Ways You'll Wish You'd Embarrassed Your Children
Yes, Facebook will be mentioned. Of course!

Wine and Chocolate, Porn and QVC Shopping:  Twenty-three Ways to Multitask Your Vices
Okay, you see through the lie on this one, don't you?  I don't have money to shop.

Stunning Simplified - Ten Tips for Rocking The Sweatpants and Flip Flop Look
I admit I don't own sweatpants anymore, but yoga pants are a useful substitute.  And my memory is intact.

So what is it about numbers?  Does it make the writer of the article sound more authoritative?  Does it lend some some air of expertise to the information?

How is Ten Great Ways to Make Your Blog Better! more appealing than an article titled Make Your Blog Better! (question mark.)  Is it the finite quality of the number?  Does that make it seem more manageable?

I know one way to find an answer.  I'll ask our resident numbers expert Mathman when he gets home.   Goodness knows that man needs yet another reason to roll his eyes at me.  It's been days since I inadvertently set anything on fire.

Meanwhile, I think I will do some "research."  I'm thinking about an article entitled "Five Ways to Make Piles of Cash While Napping."

What expert advice do you have to offer? Number or don't.  We're not picky.  Although, anyone suggesting I don't take any wooden nickels gets a karate chop.  Oh, and be sure to check out the sidebar where I've finally added links to my favorite blogs.  There are new friends and old there.  Go visit!



  1. 1. Leave the house.

    2. Do anything.

    3. Get noticed.

    4. Rely on luck.

  2. Five great ways to spend your day:(may be interpreted as time wasting)
    1. blog writing
    2. blog reading
    3. blog commenting
    4. facebook
    5. IM or fb chat

    My work here is done!

  3. The Magic Number headline/list reminds me of Cosmo, so I clicked over to see if I could come up with something appropriately silly/snarky as a sample. Well, the silly is on me, because what popped up first? "The Cosmo Headline Technique"!!! Truly, it's all on the tubes... (I started to read about the seven deadly sins, but it made my head hurt).

  4. Lisa, thank you for adding me to your blogroll -- I feel honored!

    I am interested in what MathMan thinks about why people love lists so much. I truly don't understand it myself.

    However, abdpbt has taken it to a high art form -- she posts a list every Monday morning. The post "Tweets You Might See, If Shakespeare Used Twitter" is one of my all time favorite blog posts:

  5. BUWAHAHAHAHAHA! You had me at hiding cat vomit, but the multitasking one made me snort...

    It's true, isn't it? I think a number makes the overall goal look achievable. It is MOTIVATING if it is a smallish number, and looks like a treasure trove if it's big. I'll have to give this a try.

  6. Will - Leave the house? Surely you jest. I'm working on a Guinness Book of World Records thing here.

    Anita - That's not wasting time. That's networking.

    Maureen - Too funny! And copyblogger is one of my new haunts. Big surprise!

    Oh and stay away from the seven deadly sins. Unless, of course, you want to tell us which is your favorite.

    Susan - It's my pleasure to have you on the blogroll. I can't wait to see the results of the Gray Kitty series. That link is great!

    Hart - I think there's something to those achievable goals. I know I'm using it in my own stuff. Edit? Okay, I can do five pages.

  7. I'd love to give you a Top Ten Ways to Be A Slacker, but I'm too lazy.

  8. 5 reasons the Quantum Physics theories defy Einsteins theories.

    Granted, it's niche market but the members are consistent, thorough, solid and will believe almost anything ELSE you write!

  9. 3 is the magic number

  10. I do lists. I feel guilty when I do them. People tend to like them. I would like to read about even 5 ways of making money while I nap. I intentionally rebelled against the form. Don't worry, I'll go back to lists sooon. As soon as I run out of things to say.

  11. 1 way to lose a day or 2: forget to take your bipolar drugs.

    2 tasks to do on a day you've missed taking your bipolar drugs: empty and wash the cat litter box; clean the toilet. (anyone notice a trend here?)

    3 ways to have a shitty day. See above.

  12. Clearly using both numbers AND the word porn will be blogging jackpot! But which is more effective, spelling the number (sixty nine) or using the number 69?
    Sorry, just pulled that random number from a hat.

  13. I heard on the radio the other day that NASA pays people to lay in bed - for THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT - you get free internet, free all kind of stuff - but you have to do EVERYTHING laying down. No sitting up to BM. So there is that.

  14. A number is finite although there are infinite numbers I'm guessing. Ask MM, he's the numbers guy. :)

  15. Oh, how I love making lists. And you're right, lists make popular posts. I guess it has to do with how our monkey brains work (ie, we categorize things to make sense of our world).

  16. I love numbering. Makes me feel like I accomplished something. Even if the list was 10 ways I slack off on a regular basis.

  17. I found myself giving myself a reminder today the #1 rule to survive in the corporate environment:

    #1- SHUT UP!

    I literally, physically covered my mouth today, when my supervisor announced that after 5 (grueling) years of service, the company will give you access to a special web site & you can pick a (cheap ass) gift. One of the choices is a swiss army like knife.

    I so wanted to blurt out... Seriously?? They are going to give knives to people they have abused for 5 years??? Is that such a wise idea. But I put my hand on my mouth & mentally reviewed the #1 rule.

  18. This is great. I think I've listed things in the past, but they are mostly blog related, and related to my blogging pet peeves! In fact, I have one of these coming up soon. Not sure exactly when, but sometime next week.

    Glad I finally made it by here! And I guess you're saying you're an expert on lovers? :P

    Writers Jailed today on SouthernCityMysteries

  19. I'm surprised no one made any mention of 42.

  20. Top Five Ways to Stop Procrastinating
    1. Write a list.
    2. To be continued
    3. To be continued.
    4. To be continued.
    5. To be continued.

  21. You've reminded me of Ko-Ko's famous song from the Mikado:

    And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
    The Judicial humorist — I've got him on the list!
    All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life —
    They'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed.
    And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
    Such as — What d'ye call him — Thing'em-bob, and likewise — Never-mind,
    And 'St— 'st— 'st— and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who —
    The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
    But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
    For they'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed!

  22. You guys are great! I knew lists were cool, but I clearly had no idea.

  23. haha a big part of my recent editing process has been incorporating weird lists into my novel. ("reasons why Katy packing a pistol is freaking me the fuck out!", for example.)

    now I see that I need to add NUMBERS to my list titles. ("9 Great Reasons Why my Mother Would Be All About a Rucksack Revolution") It just might work! :)


And then you say....

(Comments submitted four or more days after a post is published won't appear immediately. They go into comment moderation to cut down on spam.)