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10 Pros and Cons for Top 10 Lists

For my site, FarewellTravels, we just posted a piece about 10 great winter retreats.

Putting it together got me thinking about the whole formula of using top ten lists in travel writing.

Why are they so popular among bloggers and site editors? Are they really a smart choice when preparing content?

I decided to weigh the pros and cons and here’s what I came up with, 5 of each.


  1. Readers love them. Lists generally provide quick, easy-to-grasp information.
  2. Easy to write: Usually they’re short and don’t require telling a story or adhering to an elaborate outline.
  3. Easy to edit: One of the restaurants you recommend closes in the middle of putting the piece together? No problem. Choose another one.
  4. Easily promotable. “Ten Trends in Airline Travel,” “Top Ten Airline Carry-On Foods.” Add a link, a few hash tags and you’ve got your tweet. Plus traditional media outlets generally love top ten lists.
  5. Easy to update year after year. Once you’ve come up with your list, you know what you’re looking for and can easily make it an annual feature.


  1. Can seem arbitrary and arrogant. Who are you declaring that these inns, these restaurants, or islands belong on a short list?
  2. Can be exclusive. You pick one bed and breakfast you love but what about the one you haven’t been to that’s right down the street? Not fair.
  3. Does not necessarily showcase good writing. Good travel writing is more than just informational. It has impressions, there are stories to be told. A list doesn’t give you a chance to capture this.
  4. Can be overused as an editorial format. Do too many 10 lists and you loose your credibility.
  5. There’s not always ten. This is an example itself. I can’t think of another con.

My conclusion? Use them in moderation. Maybe even allow yourself a set number of lists a year. One a season? One a month? Too many lists will lead to top 10 reasons you should choose another profession.

~ Susan

How do you feel about ‘top 10 lists’? Share your opinion!