We do NOT accept self-help, advice, or helpful tip articles. Your writing must be excellent and easy to read for English readers, so do not submit if you aren’t fluent in writing English. Please read what we have published to understand what submissions are best.
Please only send one article or article idea per email to writers [@] toptenz.net. Your subject line should always be the proposed article title, and you should always include your PayPal address at the end of your email.
It can take up to three weeks for us to respond to a submission. We try to respond to every submission, accepted or rejected. If you haven’t received a response in more than three weeks, feel free to send a follow-up email.
Below are a few tips on formatting to keep in mind when you’re submitting your draft. If you can adhere to as many of these as possible you’ll make life easier for us and increase your chances of getting accepted.
- Articles always count down from 10 to 1.
- Always include the relevant source links for each entry with the entry—don’t pile all your sources down at the bottom of the article. We prefer it if you embed the links in your text as you see on the site.
- TopTenz uses the collective “we” voice instead of “I” for most articles. If you think a particular list would benefit from your personal perspective then go ahead and pitch it, but otherwise please use the collective voice. Also, remember that your audience is varied—you can’t assume everyone you’re addressing is American, or male, or white, etc. For example, never say something like “After we won the Revolutionary War…” Instead, word it as “After America won the Revolutionary War…”
- Please write in American English. For those of you who don’t normally write in American English, we suggest writing your article in whatever form of English you prefer, then switching your spellchecker over to American English when you’re finished. It only takes a minute to make all the changes and you should be spellchecking your drafts anyway.
- Be consistent. If you give us a measurement in feet in one entry, don’t give us a measurement in metres in another entry. If you’re using a certain convention for your entry names, make sure they all follow it. Also make sure you don’t switch tenses in the middle of an entry.
- The titles of movies, books, TV shows and video games should be in italics. Songs, short stories, TV episodes and other shorter works of that nature go in quotation marks.
- Please only put one space after each period. Two spaces is a holdover from the days of typewriters that has no modern relevance.
- Drafts should generally be in the range of 1500 – 2000 words. There are exceptions to this—some topics don’t require a lot of detail, while others require you to go more in-depth. But if you’re dropping below 1200 or going above 3000 there should be a good reason.
- Please carefully proofread your article before submission. The more simple errors you can catch before submission, (e.g. using the wrong form of there / their / they’re) the happier we will be. It’s helpful to read your draft out loud. You might feel a bit ridiculous, but you’ll catch errors and spot sections that sound awkward. Remember, when a reader reads your list that’s how they’re reading it in their head.
- At the end of every article we put links to two other articles, generally ones that are related to the topic at hand. If you’ve written a relevant list for the site that you want to highlight, feel free to include the link. We also allow one link to your personal site or a social account such as Twitter or Facebook.
Quality research is what separates TopTenz from most other list sites. There are a few guidelines you should be aware of.
Wikipedia is not a source but can be used to find sources.
Make sure your source says what you’re saying it says. If you’re claiming that a building is the tallest in the world but your source says it’s only the tallest on the continent, that’s not good. If you’re picking one statistic out of a larger group of statistics that when taken together have a different meaning, that’s not good either. Always double check your facts. It’s easy to misread or misinterpret a source.
Make sure your source isn’t biased. If your source on how pesticides are making children sick comes from a natural health foods site, we can’t trust it because they may have an agenda and are trying to sell their products. Also keep an eye out for sponsored content. For example, an otherwise legitimate site might have an article about why electric cars are the awesome future of commuting that in the fine print says it’s brought to you by Tesla Motors.
Make sure you’re not just reading one source on your subject. If your source says one thing but the dozen sources you didn’t include say the opposite, you’ve probably got a problem.
Keep an eye out for fake viral stories. This can be tricky because a lot of mainstream media sites will lazily pick up and re-report fake stories, but a general rule is that if a story sounds too good or unbelievable to be true then that may very well be the case. If you find a story that seems sketchy, try to track it down to its original source. If the original source is a tabloid like the Daily Mail or a gossip magazine like TMZ you’re probably going to have to chuck it. If it’s a satire site like the Onion or the Daily Currant you’re definitely going to have to chuck it.
Do not reword your source and claim it as your own writing. If you’re taking another writer’s phrasing and re-arranging it, that’s plagiarism. We run articles through plagiarism checkers and we have a zero tolerance policy for authors who plagiarize. So don’t do that.
Things That Will Always Be Edited
If we see any of the following in your draft, we guarantee they’ll be changed or could be grounds for not using your submission at all. So don’t use them!
Timely references. We want our lists to be “evergreen,” or as relevant two years from now as they are today. Try to avoid making references like “last week” or “a month ago,” and say “in September 2013” instead. Also avoid jokes or references that will fall flat a year from now, such as a reference to the latest Internet meme that everyone will soon forget or be sick of hearing about. Articles about timely subjects (Christmas, Halloween, the Olympics, etc.) are an exception to some of this.
Language harder than PG-13. We’re not prudes, but this is our style and it’s what our audience likes and expects. Note that this doesn’t apply to the topic of an article, but rather the text itself. For example, you can write an entry on the etymology of a naughty word. But you can’t casually drop an f-bomb in the text of an article about paintings.
Overused jokes. Comedy is subjective, and we certainly encourage you all to flex your funny bones if the article calls for it. But please avoid the sort of hack jokes you’ll see on a dozen other sites, on late-night monologues and on social media. You often see this in the form of lazy jokes about celebrities (“She’s fatter than Oprah!” “Even Tom Cruise thinks he’s crazy!”). Not only do jokes like that run into the evergreen problem mentioned above, but they’re not funny and you’re smart enough that you can do better.
General Writing Tips
None of the following is gospel, but you may find it useful in improving your article drafts.
A good introductory paragraph is one of the hardest parts of an article to write. A common mistake is simply re-stating the title or explaining facts that the reader always knows. For example, if we had an article called 10 Biggest Box Office Bombs, a bad introductory paragraph would look something like this:
“Box office bombs are created when audiences avoid a movie. Movie studios invest hundreds of millions of dollars into movies, but sometimes they flop hard. In this list, we’ll be telling you about 10 of the biggest box office bombs.”
See the problem? That paragraph doesn’t tell the reader anything new. A reader will already know the definition of a box office bomb because that’s common knowledge, and they know that’s what the list is about because they already clicked on the title. You have less than a minute to get someone’s attention on the Internet, and if you start that minute off by telling them what they already know you’re going to lose your audience. A better opening paragraph might look something like this:
“What’s the most money you’ve ever lost on a bad bet or venture? Five bucks? 100? 1,000? How about nearly a hundred million dollars? It’s crazy to think that anyone could manage to lose that much money, but The Adventures of Pluto Nash lost nearly a hundred million at the box office, and it didn’t even make it on our list.”
With this approach the reader is being drawn in with a joke, new information and the promise of more new information. There are many other ways you could approach an introductory paragraph for that hypothetical article, but whatever approach you take make sure it has some method for catching the eye.
Try not to get too bogged down in describing details, especially if you’re writing about a detail oriented subject like science or history. Remember that your readers are generalists: they may not understand the nitty-gritty details, and even if they do they’re probably not going to care. You absolutely can and should include any details that you think are interesting and relevant to your entry, but avoid anything superfluous. For example, let’s say we have an entry about the influence of the AK-47. This is too detailed:
“The AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova and also known as the Kalashnikov, is one of the most widely used guns in the world. This selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle has been employed by everyone from the Russian Army to African gangsters.
Mikhail Kalashnikov’s invention is popular because it’s durable, cheap, and easy to make. It’s also flexible—the standard 30 round magazine can be upgraded with a 40 round magazine or a 75 round drum. Grenade launchers that fire a variety of grenades like the VOG-25, VOG-25P/VOG-25PM and RGD-5 can also be used. Countless variants on the gun have also been made, most notably the Chinese Type 56 and the Serbian M-70.”
There’s some interesting information there, but it’s bogged down in tech talk that’s only going to appeal to gun enthusiasts and military history buffs. Let’s trim it down to its essentials so it’s accessible to a wider audience:
“The AK-47 is one of the most widely used guns in the world. Mikhail Kalashnikov’s invention has been employed by everyone from the Russian Army to African Gangsters. It’s popular because it’s durable, cheap, and easy to make. It’s also flexible—larger magazines can be added and grenade launchers can be attached. Many countries, including China and Serbia, have even made their own variants of the gun.”
We’ve removed all of the technical details and left only the information that readers will understand and remember, and it makes for a much easier read now.
TopTenz has a fairly conversational voice, but at the same time doesn’t get too familiar with the reader. What this means is that you should generally avoid using un-contracted words and other language that makes your writing sound formal, but at the same time don’t get too casual and start using slang. Trust your judgement—we want you to develop your own tone as well, because if you have a distinct voice you’re going to stand out from the hordes of other writers online, and that’s good for both you and us.
Pitching and Writing Good Lists
Writing lists can seem constrictive sometimes because there are roughly 18 million of them on the Internet, but remember that the list is just a format—it’s what you do with the format that counts. A good rule of thumb before pitching a list is to see what, if anything, other sites have done with the topic you have in mind. For example, if your idea is “10 Great Action Movies” and your number one entry is Die Hard, we’ve got bad news for you—that’s been done a lot, and therefore we probably won’t be interested in it.
But we have good news, too—there are a lot of other things you can do with the topic of action movies. You could put together a list of underrated action movies that casual fans wouldn’t have heard of. You could write a list of obscure foreign action movies that are every bit as good as Hollywood blockbusters. You could try to convince us that some beloved action movies are overrated, or that some infamous stinkers are under-appreciated. The basic rule is this: if your premise is telling the reader something they already know or something they could easily find elsewhere, odds are you have a bad premise. If your premise is telling readers something new or making a new and compelling argument on an old subject, odds are you have a good premise.
And that’s it! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email writers [@] toptenz.net. Thanks for reading. We look forward to your submissions!
I don’t want to write but I have a really great idea for a list. Can I email you my idea?
If you have a list idea, please write it as a comment on our most recent YouTube video! Comments with lots of upvotes are often made into lists and videos later.
How long does it take to know if your article was accepted?
Usually within 2-3 weeks.
Will I know if my article is rejected?
We will try inform you, unless it ignored our guidelines. That reduces your chance of a reply. So follow the guidelines, please.
At times we may be very brief with our rejection; this is unfortunate but with so many submissions, we can’t critique each one. If we feel the article is almost there we will ask for a revision. If we feel you have what it takes, but the article isn’t a good fit, we’ll ask you to submit something else.
Do you ever request articles on ideas that you have?
Rarely, but even then only with our long-time writers or writers we feel know the topic. Feel free to let us know what your areas of expertise are when you submit an idea.
How long from the time of acceptance to the time of payment?
We pay the same time of acceptance.
How do you prefer articles to be submitted, copy and paste emails or attachments?
An attached Word doc with source links hyperlinked from the relevant text.
What information will you need from me to process payments?
Is there a limit to submissions?
No limit, but we only buy 30-40 per month at this time. You are encouraged to submit your idea before writing it and see if it will be approved.
How does ownership/copyright work?
By submitting your list, you agree that TopTenz, LLC has the full right to publish your list and that you are the author of this list. Furthermore, you agree that once your submitted list is published on the website and/or the YouTube channel, TopTenz.net becomes the sole owner of all copyright, and publishing and other rights related to the list content. Unless specific permission is granted to the author, we do not allow republishing of articles that are submitted to Toptenz.net. This means you cannot publish your accepted submission on any other site without our permission. So don’t do it. Read “If you add content on this site” below for the legalese version. Additionally, don’t try to sell us something that you’ve had published somewhere else.
Help Promote Us
If you want to help me out and push TopTenz to the next level, please promote it when possible. How, you ask?
- Mention the site and link back to Toptenz.net. Even linking to your author page helps.
- Link to us in your signature file, in your bio when you publish on other sites and anywhere you write.
- Add Toptenz.net on your Facebook page as a site you contribute to. See Mike Floorwalker’s page: https://www.facebook.com/mike.floorwalker/about?section=education
- We have accounts everywhere so follow, subscribe, or whatever. We need the support of our writers.
If you add content on this site:
By providing any Content to TopTenz.net: (a) you (the author) agree to grant to us (TopTenz, LLC) a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive right and license (including any moral rights or other necessary rights) to use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, distribute, perform, promote, archive, translate, and to create derivative works and compilations, in whole or in part. Such license will apply with respect to any form, media, technology known or later developed; (b) you warrant and represent that you have all legal, moral, and other rights that may be necessary to grant us with the license set forth in this Section 7; (c) you acknowledge and agree that we shall have the right (but not obligation), in our sole discretion, to refuse to publish or to remove or block access to any Content you provide at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.
You agree to indemnify and hold us harmless, our subsidiaries, affiliates, related parties, officers, directors, employees, agents, independent contractors, advertisers, partners, and co-branders from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorney’s fees, that may be made by any third party, that is due to or arising out of your conduct or connection with this web site or service, your provision of Content, or any other violation of the rights of another person or party.