See what I did there?
My title should either be: The Number One Most Common Mistake in Internet Lists or The Number One Most Common Mistake in Internet Lists. There can only be one “most common” mistake, so it is unnecessary to specify further.
I wish online-content creators understood the redundancy of the constructions “top ten most” and “top ten best.” You can either list The Ten Best Australian Jai Alai Players of 1948 or The Top Ten Australian Jai Alai Players of 1948. Writing The Top Ten Best Australian Jai Alai Players of 1948 is the same thing as saying you lack proficiency in grammar and composition.
I mean, is there a different group of “top ten” Australian jai alai players from 1948 that necessitates the introduction of best as a modifier? The top ten most average players of 1948? The top ten most last-minute cuts from the team?
I’m not referring to blog posts by new writers trying to learn as they go along. We all try, make mistakes, and grow. I’m talking about Yahoo! and Buzzfeed and Huffington Post and all the other big, fluff-heavy infotainment sites where professional writers are paid to ruin productivity at offices everywhere by distracting us with top-ten lists.
If you are thinking of dipping your toe into the high-stakes pool* of internet list making, here’s a basic guideline on how to construct your title: If the first word after the number is an adjective, drop the “top.”
Example: The Top Five Sexiest Japanese Monsters.
Since “sexiest” is an adjective, drop “top” and change it to The Five Sexiest Japanese Monsters.
[For the record, the five sexiest Japanese monsters are Mechagodzilla (the 1974 version), Gigan, Godzilla, Battra, and the Brown Gargantua]
You have more leeway in the absence of an adjective. With a noun, you can either drop the “top” or eliminate the modifier.
Example: The Top 29 Best Colors for Scotch™ Tape Dispensers.
The Top 29 Colors for Scotch™ Tape Dispensers works just as well as The 29 Best Colors for Scotch™ Tape Dispensers. Although, on a side note, I think this is a terrible idea for a list. Once you get past “green” and “clear,” you’re probably going to hit a wall.
Any particular writing mistake you notice over and over again in your cyberspace adventures?
*Yikes. Maybe I should do a post on embarrassingly bad metaphors.