Using Bullet Points
 
When using bullet points, be consistent with the formatting and try to start each bullet with the same type of word (i.e., create parallel lists).
 

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Formatting with Bullets Points

When using bullets, be consistent throughout the document with the formatting (e.g., capital letters and punctuation at the start and end of each bullet). Choose whatever format you like, but be consistent throughout your document. Below are some common formats:

Capital letter and full stop/period

Mr Mole won the following events:

  • Egg-and-spoon race.
  • Toss the pancake.
  • Apple bobbing.
This is the most common format.

Lowercase letters and no end mark

Mr Mole won the following events:

  • egg-and-spoon race
  • toss the pancake
  • apple bobbing

Punctuate like a sentence

Mr Mole won the following events:

  • egg-and-spoon race,
  • toss the pancake, and
  • apple bobbing.
Some people like to maintain a sentence structure. You do not have to do this with bullet points, but it's an option. Be aware that not all your bullet points will lend themselves to this structure, so it is often difficult to maintain consistency throughout a lengthy document if you chooose this method.

Punctuate like a sentence with semicolons

Mr Mole won the following events:

  • egg-and-spoon race;
  • toss the pancake; and
  • apple bobbing.


To be grammatically pure, you should only use this formatting when your list items contain commas.

Be Consistent!

Mr Mole won the following events:

  • Egg-and-spoon race.
  • Toss the pancake.
  • apple bobbing.


Should be a capital A on "apple bobbing."

Be Logical!

Ensure all your bullets make sense with the words of introduction. Here is an example that doesn't from a bottle of fluoride mouthwash:




Helps Fight Freshens Breath
The last bullet does not link logically to the words of introduction.

Create Parallel Lists (Use the Same Type of Word)

It is good practice to write your bullets in the same style. In other words, use a similar-looking word for the first word in each bullet. Here is an example that could be improved:


It is picturesque region, but I would advise visitors to avoid:

  • Bathing in the river.
  • Driving in the town.
  • The local tapas bar.


This makes perfect sense, but it is not as good as it could be. "Eating in the local tapas bar" would have been better. That way, the opening words would have been Bathing, Driving, and Eating. As they are all the same type of word, the list would have been parallel.

When list items are written in the same style, they are said to be parallel. The list above is non-parallel. Ensuring your lists (not just bulleted lists but all lists) are parallel will test your English skills and slow you down, but they are easier to read. Creating parallel lists will portray you as a clear thinker. (Itís worth the investment.)

Don't Introduce Your List with a Semicolon

Colons (:) are used for introductions. You cannot use a semicolon (;).


It is picturesque region, but I would advise visitors to avoid;

  • Bathing in the river.
  • Driving in the town.
  • Eating in the local tapas bar.

See also:

Colons with bullet points (covers many of the same points)
Semicolons to extend sentences





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