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Ten mistakes to avoid when writing a listicle

Wednesday March 20th, 2019 in Writing | No Comments »

Listicles are good for readers because they increase the white space on the page.

Listicles are good for writers because you don’t have to think.

Despite their ease of production, digestion and excretion, there are some common mistakes people make when writing a listicle. Read on to learn these two things:

1. What the ten listicle mistakes to avoid are.

2. A little bit more information about each mistake under its heading.

ONE: Promising too many items in the title

It’s easy enough to say you’re going to list 17 things to do with your nipples, but you have to be able to follow through. If numbers 14 through to 17 vary only in the colour of the pegs, you have failed.

TWO: Counting wrong

Don’t say there will be six reasons and then only list four. Readers hate reading and will probably rejoice if the list ends early, but for the sake of professionalism get your numbering straight.

THREE: Padding the list with things that should be common sense

Sometimes I feel swamped with tasks and make a list for myself, only to find that I actually only have three things I really need to do and one of them is ‘Calm down you’re actually not that busy and important’.

So I get it. A shorter than expected list can be sad. Even so, do not be tempted to add unnecessary things to the list just to make it longer. A lot of people are writing ‘One thing’ articles now, and that’s fine.

FOUR: Getting your nouns confused

I’ve lost track of the times I’ve started reading a listicle titled ‘Here are the Eight Worst New Years Resolutions’, only to find that half the items are actually Toileting Tips. Keep those two lists separate.

FIVE: Get rid of toxic stuff

Be they in the form of relatives or lead paint, you don’t need these in your life. There are numbers you can call, and you should.

FIVE: Writing your list in Wingdings

It’s a fun font, but hardly anyone can read it.

SIX: Writing your list in Wingdings 2

The companion to Wingdings, Wingdings 2 is actually no easier for people to read.

SEVEN: Writing your listicle in Wingdings 3

I think you see what I’m doing here.

Coming Next Week: The one thing you need to know about tassels

Ideas for netball novels

Tuesday September 18th, 2018 in Sport, Writing | No Comments »

There are a number of middle-grade books about netball including the Netball Gems series and Sporty Kids: Netball!

And yet, it seems that in other genres, netball has been missing from our literary works. To begin to rectify this, I’ve drawn up a list of netball fiction ideas. I’m happy for anyone to take one of these ideas and run with it (as long as you dispose of it before your landed foot hits the ground again.)

Women wearing netball uniforms jostling. Text Murder on the Transverse line and P Tangey.Crime fiction

Murder on the Transverse Line

A Goal Attack with an ankle injury begins to investigate crime after a member of the opposition is found dead in the netball balls bag.


Shirtless man facing away from camera, woman holding netball in goal keeper bib. Text Penelope Tangey, The KeeperRomance

The Keeper

Freya isn’t married and starts a mixed-netball team with her long-term boyfriend.  Freya thinks she loves him, but he plays Goal Attack and insists on taking free passes in the Centre third. Is he really a keeper after all?


Rusty Netball ring. Text: P.A. Tangey above and Score below.Literary Fiction


A middle-aged man cheats on his wife with her entire netball team and thinks about dead leaves and rust.


Netball ring from below, oranges on a plate, man in paddock chewing grass. Text Penny Tangey Oranges actually are the only fruit

Rural Romance

Oranges actually are the only fruit

A city lawyer returns to the country town of Balanganan after her parents die. She tries to run the family citrus farm, which is very difficult actually. She joins a netball team to unwind, but do they really want her ball skills or just her free oranges?

Picture of small dog in Centre netball bib jacketClassic Children’s Literature

Five Refuse to Forfeit

The Famous Five are badly let down by their Dorset cousins and are left without a full team for the semis. Will the umpire notice that Timmy is a dog and Anne is pregnant?

The day I realised my friend was writing articles about our friendship

Thursday November 2nd, 2017 in Writing | No Comments »

The first time I had an inkling that my friend Ben was writing articles about our friendship was when I read his Daily Hail piece titled, “Is it ever okay to tell your friend they’re a terrible person?”

In the article Ben wrote about a friend called “Jenny” who had borrowed his red jumper and returned it covered in cat hair. I decided not to assume his writing was about me. The jumper I’d borrowed from Ben was orange and the hair was Pomeranian. (I didn’t own a lint roller and had done my best with a wad of Blu Tack).

The next article Ben sold to Men’s Daily was titled, “The five ways to dump a toxic friend”. Ben had done extensive research for this article. He had interviewed a real-life celebrity psychologist by reading their book and distilled their advice in between stories of how awful his friend was. Ultimately, it was really only one piece of advice, “Don’t spend time with your toxic friend” but Ben managed to break it up into five parts: Don’t respond to their emails, Don’t respond to their text messages, Don’t answer their phone calls, Pretend you’re very busy and important, and Hide.

I couldn’t help but wonder, am I Ben’s toxic friend? Particularly when I found Ben crouching in the pantry. He said he was looking for a potato and I chose to believe him.

It was when I read Ben’s article in Junkabel, “The day I realised I hate my housemate” that I finally had no doubt that he secretly publicly hated me. Ben included an anecdote about his horrible housemate sending him a passive aggressive email asking if he wanted a puppy. Despite Ben anonymising the email address as horriblehousemate@gmail.com I knew the email he quoted was from me because I had written it and he included my spelling errors. No-one else spells bureaucrat quite that badly.

The scales fell from my eyes and I realised Ben was maintaining our relationship just to write about how awful it was. After a minute of reflection, I calmed down. We all need to earn a crust. Not everyone is lucky enough to own a Pomeranian walking business. I just wish Ben would stop tagging me when he shares the links.

P is for Phonetic: An English Spelling is Phucked Alfabet

Saturday July 22nd, 2017 in Writing | No Comments »

File:Greek cyrillic latin.png

I’m not one of the world’s great spellers. I blame English.

Below I’ve expressed my frustration (with some swears apologies). If illustrated this could be a lovely baby board book or frieze for a child’s room.


A is for Art. Apparently. Not R, because that would be easy. Rseholes.


There are two Bs in bomb. For no good reason. Bumb.


There are no Cs in sea, or see. There’s one in c***s though.


There’s a D in sandwich. Stick it up your andus.


E is for excrement. Not X because it’s s**t.


There are two Fs in giraffe. FFS.


G is for gonerreah, making it the most sensible letter in the word.


H is for hours of my life wasted trying to spell hierarchy.


There’s no I in eye. I give in.


There’s a J in marijuana. No wonder people stick to heroin.


Lolly has three Ls, lily has two.

I want to scream, how about you?


M is for mnemonic, and you’ll need one to remember how to spell it.


N is knot for knife. Who new.


There’s two Os in colonel, but none in kernel. How’s your colon feeling?


P is for pterodactyl. What ptwat decided that?


Q is for queue. Four extra vowels, why? Queueunts.


R is the second letter in are. RUOK? No. I’m aropeable.


There’s an S is in aisle and isle. Homonyms with no s sound. I’lls be buggered.


There’s a T in listen, but you can’t hear it. I shi you no.


U is the last letter in you. nf***ingbelievableu.


V is for vagina. I have no problem with that.


W is for write. Rankers.


There’s an X in box but not blocks. Bollox.


There’s a Y in why but not where you’d think. It’s ysh**t.


Z is not for xylophone. F*** off! Zactly.

Articles you should never write

Friday December 16th, 2016 in Parenting, School, Writing | No Comments »


(Image is of an older man in 1870 with a bald head and long hair at the back.)

I am not the boss of you. Never-the-less here follows a list of things you shouldn’t be writing about and publicising on the internet. You might wonder why I don’t simply avoid articles I dislike, but these fingers were made for clicking. I can’t stop myself, so I will try to stop other people.

Telling other people what to wear

It is helpful to have someone on the internet defining ‘business casual’ and ‘formal attire below the knee only’ but these articles should be a guide to common practise, and not be written in a prescriptive tone.

If you see someone wearing yoga pants, shorts to a wedding, or a hat that doesn’t suit the shape of their face, keep that thought in your shallow shameful little head. Let people wear what they want, it doesn’t affect you. Definitely DO NOT take to your laptop and write a little think piece about it.

Although I guess there’s some stuff about cultural appropriation and exploitation relating to clothes that might be important to write about. In those cases, you do you.

Telling other people what to do with their hair

When I was in Year 8 I told my friend’s boyfriend that he couldn’t sit with us unless he cut his hair (he had a long ponytail and was getting teased a lot). He didn’t. He kept sitting with us because luckily I have no power.

Now that I’m 37 instead of 14 I have stopped telling other people what to do with their hair. High five for me. Am I going to get some kind of award? No? That’s just called being reasonable. Shame.

At times I have taken my commitment not to interfere with other people’s hair too far. Once, in a bar my friend’s hair literally caught on fire after he leaned back into a tee-light candle. I waited for him to signal that he was unhappy with having a burning halo before I offered to smother it. Some may argue this was bordering on callous but I still think that unless someone has specifically and directly asked you for help with their hair, do not give it to them verbally, in writing or by implementing emergency procedures.

In particular, do not write articles about how men who have a comb-over or a pony tail or a mullet make you be sick in your mouth. I know that women have copped this kind of thing a lot longer and worse than men, but hows about we let men keep the vote as well? Jeez I’m broadminded today.

Telling people 183 things they shouldn’t say to someone who…

Some of these articles are useful. Some people console grieving parents by telling them there’s a reason for everything, and these people need to be told to stoppit as quickly and often as necessary.

I have learned many good communication tips from ‘100 things not to say’ articles. However, some writers go to far in my opinion, and as a result I’m left floundering when I meet someone who has a cold. Should I ask how they’re feeling? (No, they’ll either have to lie or be negative.) Should I mention their copious mucous? (No, you should allow them to bring this up IF they want to.) Should I say ‘Hope you feel better soon!’ (No, it doesn’t matter if they feel better soon, the point is they feel shit now.)

The only thing I’m left with is patting them on the head, which is actually one of the things that you are definitely actually really not supposed to EVER do to someone over the age of five (seriously, don’t do this).

Telling modern parents they’re responsible for the terrible state of children these days

These articles contain some combination of the following insights:

  • Screens rot the brain and you should smash them all as soon as you finish reading this article.
  • Childcare does something. We’re not sure what but you’re being very selfish.
  • The kids aren’t learning phonetics and the bridges will all fall down.
  • We need to bring back bitumen and burn the tanbark because hot feet and an acquired brain injury help kids learn.
  • Buy the author’s book or your child will murder you in your sleep and it will be all your fault.

I’ve read it all before, but I’ll read it all before the week is out.

‘Stop reading them Penny’ you say. Next you’ll be suggesting I don’t click on Where Are They Now articles. As if.


Wednesday March 4th, 2015 in Writing | No Comments »

waterfall quote

A music teacher at my school once described me as: ‘The dud of her family, with no sense of humour’.

I have a great family, so I’m not prepared to say whether or not I’m the dud of it. As to having no sense of humour – almost everyone thinks they have a good sense of humour, and I’m no exception. I do find a lot of things funny. I actually found that music teacher very funny and admired her for it. She was mean, but witty and I often laughed at things she said.

At the time, I tried to laugh her comment off. But over the years I have thought about it a lot (dud of my family, with no sense of humour…how! dare! she!), possibly proving her point. Sometimes I wonder if her saying that encouraged me to prove her wrong, inspiring me and spurring me on to do stuff and achieve. Ultimately though, I don’t think it was helpful. I think that actual encouragement is probably more encouraging than telling someone they’re crap and waiting for the inspirational music to start as they struggle to overcome your oppression.

I have a lot of supportive friends and family who say things like ‘Keep going!’ and ‘You’re good at things!’ and ‘Chug, chug, chug’ (they’re pretending to be the little engine that could. Some of my friends and family are quite patronising).

These encouraging moments are too numerous to list. So today I wanted to write about two times I was encouraged by someone called Tim.

When I was writing my first book I sent a draft manuscript to my friend Tim C to read. He gave me a lot of carefully considered feedback.

One night I emailed him and said: ‘I’m only asking this because I’m drunk – but do you think my book could ever be published?’ Tim C replied with words to the effect of: ‘Yes! Have you seen some of the shit in book shops?’

I found this immensely heartening and pushed on. I realised that I had never claimed to be the next Salman Rushdie (but one who would never write about myself in the third person). My goals were quite modest and achievable: to produce a work slightly less shit than some of the other shit that gets published.

A year later I was trying to find a publisher, and had received a couple of rejections. I was despondent about the whole process. A different friend, confusingly also from my stable of friends called Tim, was adamant that I would ultimately succeed.

I remember Tim B banging the table: ‘You don’t give in! If that publisher doesn’t want it, you send it to the next one! It will be published!’

I tentatively pointed out that Tim B hadn’t actually read my manuscript. He gave a dismissive sweep of his hand and yelled, (we were in a bar, you had to yell to be heard, but he may have done so anyway, he was in that kind of mood) ‘I don’t need to read it! I just know!’

Tim B may have been a little bit drunk, but he spoke very convincingly and I was hugely encouraged as I walked home that night.

On both those ocassions the encouragement came in just the right way, at just the right moment, with the result that it was really very encouraging.


Saturday April 5th, 2014 in Data, Writing | No Comments »

Feeling like I was getting nowhere on my next manuscript, I did what I often do when I feel a bit overwhelmed. I started a spreadsheet.

I list the date and word count at the end of the day’s writing. From this I calculate my average words written per day since I started the sheet in mid-January. I then assume linear progress and have projected a finishing date. (Assuming that the first draft will be 50,000 words.)

This is not the world’s most artistic approach to writing but it has certainly motivated me to get more words on the screen. I have a strong desire to keep my average up.

These are my current figures:

Average words written daily: 187

Projected completion date: 10 July 2014

And I’m proud to say that this graph shows that I’ve been making pretty steady progress:


 Of course that doesn’t mean it will be finished on that date. It’s just my projected date for having a sloppily written first draft with a rambling plot and way too many characters. I think after that the real work will start, and it might be harder to graph.

Wasting time

Friday January 10th, 2014 in Parenting, Writing | No Comments »

I have a limited amount of time each day to write. I have to choose how I want to spend it.

The main thing that I feel I ‘should’ be writing is my next book. I’m writing my memoirs of working at a bacon factory over summer. The big advantage of a memoir is that I don’t have to think up names for characters or decide what happens next. I just look at my diary and write it up. I am very worried that this is going to result in a big mess with no plot and lots of upset friends and relatives. So I think I will fictionalise it later. I’m worried the whole thing is a big waste of time, but I thought that about my other three books as well.

But sometimes I use my writing time to do other things. Like writing a blog entry, or emailing a friend or making parody videos of cloth nappy reviews. I feel guilty about these activities, like they’ve taken me away from a more noble path. Then I remember that the more noble path is writing my memoirs of working in a bacon factory. So it probably doesn’t matter what I do really.

So here are the videos.





Diaries and Terrors

Saturday September 28th, 2013 in Diaries, Stay Well Soon, Writing | No Comments »

Holly terror_excerpt

Before I wrote Stay Well Soon I re-read my primary school diaries to help establish the main character Stevie’s tone. It seemed helpful to read what I wrote as an eleven year old girl before I tried to write about one as a thirty year old.
Rereading my diaries I’m struck by how much of it is unreliable. I wrote things because I liked the way they sounded, rather than because they were true.

This is a couple of diary entries from late September in 1991 when I was in Grade 4.

Today we saw the writers train. I liked Libby Hathorn But not the other writer. We went to the foot ball. It wasn’t as bad as uselal. I got a Milky Way. We were walking around with Don. He kept Chit chating with his friend. Felt like telling him to Shut up and lets get going only didn’t (note 1). Finely we went back to the car. Tomorro is Fathers Day. We are going to Echca to see Paddy and Loo(note 2).

Paddy is a Holly Terror (note 3) and sos his brother (note 4). But I like Joe (note 5).

(Note 1) I probably didn’t really want to tell Don to shut up. I was trying to sound tough like Penny Pollard, who was my inspiration for diary writing. Dropped a lot of pronouns to sound like her.

(Note 2) I don’t know why I referred to going to see ‘Paddy and Loo’ when there were three other members of their family, including Paddy’s dad. Maybe they were just the loudest.

(Note 3) I had clearly heard an adult call someone a ‘holy terror’ and I liked the way it sounded. It’s possible that Paddy was a very well behaved six year old and I was just dead-set on using the phrase. Anyway, it sounds weird coming from a ten year old. Particularly one who can’t spell.

(Note 4) They are both lovely people now and were probably just being boisterous at the time. I have three sisters and was not used to boys.

(Note 5) Joe was a one year old, so probably didn’t have the capacity to terrorise with a Christmas theme yet.