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Think Chunks
by Susan Sundwall

People constantly look for ways to do things smarter, cheaper, better and faster. This fact of life is a boon to magazines, books and websites that utilize list articles to address this need. Editors know that readers often have only limited time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes waiting in the doctor’s office, to glance through their publication and an eye catching list article is the perfect vehicle for giving the reader small chunks of information to take away and use later.

So, how do you write a list article? First, find out what’s already out there. Take a look at some of the magazine covers vying for your attention the next time you’re waiting in a checkout line. Here is a sampling from some familiar magazines.

1. Woman’s World (April 2006) Are you ready for surgery? This article lists five tips from experts to help you decide.

2. Family Circle (March 2006) Weather report: rain, Forecast: Fun, a top-12 guide to games, crafts, movies and more.

3. Family Fun (May 2006) What’s for Dinner? 5 Easy Chicken Dinners. Busy parents love it.

4. AARP The magazine (February 2007) 9 Secrets to Better Health

If any of these titles or others like them strikes a cord in you, then you may have the skills and enthusiasm needed to write a list article.

Next, you’ll need to target your market appropriately. Recently I targeted BRIO, a Focus on the Family magazine for teen girls. I had a list article in mind for them and did a little research. I took the time to read several issues and discovered that the magazine has a slant towards service. Articles about helping others and missionary work were featured along with recipes, spiritual health, teen profiles and quizzes. I settled on ten areas of service I knew young girls could handle and would be interested in. Some of the items came from life experience and some I researched, like item #7 about how to become a Salvation Army Christmas bell ringer. I was confident my idea would be a good fit for the magazine. I used lively, teen friendly language in the style and format of the magazine. I also sent it well in advance of the holiday season. When the contract for my submission arrived a few months later I did a happy dance around the kitchen. In December of 2005, BRIO published my article, “10 Terrific Ways to be Someone’s Holiday Angel.

Ideas are not hard to come by and the topics are legion. Keep your eyes and ears open and your curiosity tuned to unique possibilities for a list article. Think top ten this or the most popular that. Research your subject and get any expert opinions you need. Make sure you’re on target with your desired publication, then slice and dice your findings into inviting, readable chunks. You’re bound to meet with success.

© Copyright 2007, Susan Sundwall

Susan is a freelance writer, sometime poet and soon to be blogger. Read her children’s story, "Mary’s Sparrow."

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