Want to create an attention-getting press release?

Make a list. And be sure to number it.

No. Don’t just fax off a list. You still need to follow the standard inverted pyramid style of press releases. You still need to include the 5 W’s and the H (who, what, when, why, how, where) at the top of the article. But after that introduction, you kick right into the list.

So, why do numbered lists work so well? Here are 7 reasons.

1.      Preview. Your top priority in creating your press release headline is clarity, giving a clear and concise description of the story. Including the word “list” not only provides this information, by making it a numbered list it also quantifies it.

2.      Attention. List headlines suck readers in. Just the fact that someone took the time to create a list makes the information seem valuable, important, and informative. And since a list is easily scanned, readers feel impressed to look it over it quickly to make sure they aren’t missing out on anything.

3.      Whitespace. Eye-tracking studies have found that readers tend to scan content rather than read it. The eye is actually seeking a resting spot. The whitespace around each item in the list draws the eye and thus draws the reader in.

4.      Interaction. If you are publishing online and want interaction in the comment section, a list can’t be beat. This style makes it easier for online readers to interact with you. Instead of having to quote a section to comment on it, they can refer to the content by point number, such as, “I agree with what you said in point 6. In my experience….

5.      Controversy. Lists get people talking. Readers can pick and choose. “I agree with point 2 but I disagree with point 7.” Or, they will want to add to your list. Even if you are dealing in print, local conversation will go around the point numbers.

6.      Authoritative. For some reason, people just assume a list represents authority. Whether this is true for any particular list or not, it generally is still perceived that way. Why not cash in on being considered an authority by creating a list? You will get readers.

7.      Limited. A numbered list by nature lets you know there is both a start and an end. In a world filled with information overload, the idea of having a set list — a set limit — is comforting. It tells us we can grab the important parts and ignore the rest.

Have you used lists in your press releases? If so, what was the result?