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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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