It’s easy to go wrong with bullet lists. Should it have a period at the end? Should it start with a capital letter? Here are some guidelines to make things simple.
Bullet Lists v Number Lists
When do you use bullets instead of numbers?
Use number lists to:
- Identify a sequence of actions to be taken.
- Show the reader which steps to follow.
- If there are a specific number of items you want to highlight, e.g. In this recipe there are three ingredients…
Use bullet lists to:
- Outline a set of instructions, e.g. pack the following before traveling. The order isn’t important, just the contents.
- List items.
Capitalize Bullet Lists
When to capitalize the first letter in a bulleted item.
Start each bulleted item with a capital letter.
Capitalize proper nouns and the first word of a complete sentence.
Bullet Lists Periods, Full stops and Punctuation
When should you use periods (full stops) and have bulleted items end without punctuation?
- Use periods after independent clauses, dependent clauses, or long phrases that are displayed on separate lines in a list. For example: MS Office has the following features: Content Management. Printing capabilities. Programming add-ins.
- Use periods after short phrases that are essential for the completeness of the statement introducing the list. For example: MS Word has a number of features, including: Indexing, Ribbons, and HTML tools.
- Don’t use periods after short phrases or single words in a list if the introductory statement is grammatically complete.
- When one item contains a complete sentence, punctuate all bulleted items.
- Capitalize the first words and put a period at the end of each item.
You will not be accepted into the Army if you have engaged in:
Please list all occasions when you were arrested or detained.
If you’re creating a long document full of bulleted lists, be consistent and decide at the start to end each item with, or without, a period. Within a grouping, always use all periods or no periods. Try not to alternate throughout the document.
What else would you add?
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