By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
And there you have it, I’ve got your attention. It’s as simple as that. If you want attention, just jot down a top five or top 10 list and the world is yours. Of course, as with everything in life, there are rules.
Don’t believe me? Here are three reasons why I know I’m right.
Rule #1 (and this is a real list this time): Good lists come in multiples of five (or maybe three).
You can have a top five list. You can also have a top 10 list. You can even have a top 20 list. What you can’t have is a top nine list or any other number that isn’t a multiple of five. And yes, I know, the number three is an exception.
If you come up with a “Top Nine” list, you’ve lost all credibility. Some people will think, “What? You couldn’t come up with one more for your list?” Others will say that you’re redundant or superfluous for coming up with anything more than your five proper, honest to goodness, standard bullet points.
Everyone knows that all good ideas come in multiples of five. Any deviation from that is completely unacceptable. I believe the Supreme Court ruled on that a few years ago.
Rule #2: A good list is nothing if it isn’t written down.
It doesn’t matter what your list is about, so long as it is in written form. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the topic is — I can come up with a top 10 list of reasons why I think the rutabaga is the sexiest vegetable known to man. As long as it’s written down, I will garner the respect of fellow rutabaga aficionados and the community at large.
On the other hand, try standing at a busy street corner loudly proclaiming your love for the rutabaga and see how long it takes for a turnip truck to take you away. (See how I cleverly slipped in the turnip reference in that last line? I’m really getting to the root of the issue now. OK, OK, I’ll stop.)
Rule #3: If you’ve put together a list and it’s on paper, you must be a professional.
I’m sure anyone who spends any time online has experienced this phenomenon. You come across an interesting top 10 list and you read through it. It never occurs to you to question whether the person writing the top 10 list is actually qualified enough to write the list in the first place.
For some reason, we all read these lists and take for granted that whoever is writing it must be qualified to write it, or it wouldn’t have been published.
Case in point: I came across a list online today entitled, “Top 10 Reasons Why We’re Dumped.” Now, truth be told, I haven’t read the list yet.
But still, let’s just think about it for a minute.
If it turns out that the author of this list has been dumped so many times that they decided to catalog all the ways they’ve been dumped, the question begs to be asked, “If you’ve been dumped that many times, aren’t you the last person I should be getting advice from in order not to get dumped?” Whatever you’re doing, it doesn’t seem to be working.
I’ve been married for nearly 21 years and, as far as I can tell, I haven’t been dumped. By that standard, I could easily write a list called, “Top 10 Reasons Why I Haven’t Been Dumped Yet.”
Remember, the “instant credibility” factor only works in print, or if you happen to be David Letterman. At cocktail parties, I’ve tried to explain to anyone who will listen about my “Top 20 Ways of Keeping My Male Model Looks Intact into My 40s,” but everyone always leaves me before I get to number 12.
So those are my top three rules to writing top 10 lists. I have a really good fourth rule, but I’m no rule breaker. (end)
Wayne Chan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.