Lists Are Lazy
As mentioned in my recent update, I often have an urge to organize parts of my posts into a list format. This seems to be something I am not alone in experiencing; Many popular websites have built a reputation on compiling entertaining lists. They're so pervasive in internet culture that I wonder if being unwillingly bombarded with 'The 10 Most _______' types of articles has subconsciously influenced me. Regardless, I wanted to take a moment to share my opinion on this maligned yet also beloved writing style.
My opinion is this: lists are extremely effective at conveying information in certain circumstances, but when they are used too liberally they become a crutch for lazy and uninspired writing. I'll do my best to explain why... without using any lists!
Lists make communication efficient by excluding anything non-essential.
Forget sentence and paragraph transitions, a list can jump from one point to another without anything more than a line break. This makes a passage easy to write and even easier to scan, which translates to very efficient communication. There is a trade-off though.
Efficient communication is not necessarily effective communication.
There are a lot of nuances in human communication. Cutting out the nuances may seem like a great idea, but some meaning and function is lost in the process. A persuasive essay, for example, would not likely be maximally persuasive if each argument was condensed down to a couple bullet points. I have a fun tangent to demonstrate this effect, but note that it's more for fun than direct comparison.
In case the video gets taken down, it is Kevin Malone from The Office speaking like a caveman to save time.
Based on these two points about efficiency vs effectiveness, I conclude that a list is only an acceptable writing style for situations that don't require nuance. Unfortunately, thanks to their time-saving capabilities for writers and readers it's tempting to use them liberally, or even to insert them into situations which they are not suited to. With that in mind, I'm going to be extra careful about how I use them in my writing from now on.