1. There's no point. Is there a clear focus to your article, or is it just a rambling of opinions and ideas? Using the structure of a Top 10 list should help.
2. There's no space. Is there enough white space for the reader in between ideas? A good rule of thumb is four lines maximum per paragraph. If you're publishing an HTML newsletter with a sidebar, that could be as few as one or two sentences!
3. There's no discretion. Oh my goodness!!! Are you overusing exclamation marks? If it's really that important, tell us why! Otherwise you're just distracting your reader.
4. There's no reader. Are you talking AT your reader or TO them? Ask them questions, use the word "you," and take a conversational tone in your writing. Try reading your articles out loud as you write; imagine a client is listening.
5. There's no end. Do your sentences tend to run on and on? Don't make it hard work to read your articles, or your readers won't stay with you. Write clearly and your ideas will be read, understood and shared.
6. There's no action. Do you let your reader off the hook with passive language? Pull them in by using lots of action words for things they should do, or to describe things you or others have already done.
7. There's no logic. Are you confusing your reader by combining too many points in the same paragraph? Use a clear and concise structure to separate your ideas.
8. There's no match. What is the focus of your list? If it's problem-focused, or a "don't" list (Top 10 mistakes, Top 10 symptoms, etc.), then that's what the header of each point should be. If it's solution-focused, or a "do" list (Top 10 ways to, Top 10 tips, etc.), then ALL of your list items should reflect that.
9. There's no magic. Do your list item titles (mini-headlines) stand out and attract attention? Choose a similar short phrase or keyword for each, rather than a full sentence. Make each mini-headline approximately the same length.
10. There's no invitation. Have you ever heard Andrea Lee say, "A confused mind always says no"? In the Author Resource box at the end of your article, make it clear which ONE action you'd like the reader to take – preferably to visit your website and sign-up for your free gift.
Quick Writing Prompt: Print this post and use it as a checklist when you're editing your next Top 10 article. Make sure you haven't made any of these mistakes!
Note: This article was edited on July 26, 2008 to conform with The Customizable Style Guide for Coaches Who Write.