Are Your Bullet Points En Pointe?

A Way With Words Content Writing

Bul­let points are great. They let you:

  • list infor­ma­tion;
  • break up text; and
  • sequence your thoughts.

But here at A Way With Words, when proof­read­ing con­tent we see some com­mon mis­takes and hear some com­mon con­cerns. We don’t want writ­ers to be put off using bul­let points; so we’re here to help you grab the bul­let by the horns with the basics:

1. Intro­duc­to­ry sentence

2. Cor­rect punctuation

3. Con­sis­ten­cy of structure

d) Con­sis­ten­cy of style

5. Length

 

Introductory sentence

Ladies and gen­tle­men, please pull up a chair as I proud­ly present our bul­let list. The sen­tence intro­duc­ing your list needs not only to entice your read­ers but be cor­rect­ly punc­tu­at­ed as well. If your intro­duc­to­ry sen­tence is

  • A full sen­tence – use a colon.
  • A frag­ment – jump straight in.

Correct punctuation

Start­ing and end­ing your bul­let­ed text cor­rect­ly is where many writ­ers break out into a sweat but the rules are fair­ly simple.

Com­plete sen­tences should begin with a cap­i­tal let­ter and end with a peri­od (e.g a full stop).

Here are some of our favourite facts about ice cream:

  • Ice cream tastes nice. 
  • Ice cream often comes with choco­late sauce. 
  • Ice cream often appears on holiday. 

Con­tin­u­ous sen­tences should use semi­colons, with the penul­ti­mate sen­tence end­ing ‘; and’ and the final sen­tence end­ing with a period.

When eat­ing ice cream you should

  • select an appro­pri­ate­ly sized bowl;
  • have choco­late sauce at the ready; and 
  • dig right in.

Incom­plete sen­tences shouldn’t end in a peri­od and cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the first word is down to styl­is­tic preference.

My top ice cream flavours:

  • choco­late
  • peanut but­ter
  • straw­ber­ry

Consistency of structure

When it comes to gram­mar, peo­ple have dif­fer­ent styles, were taught by dif­fer­ent Eng­lish teach­ers and will debate at length about the cor­rect use of some gram­mat­i­cal rules. One rule that isn’t up for debate when it comes to bul­let­ed lists is consistency.

Avoid being incon­sis­tent with your sen­tence struc­tures and styles.

  • It makes your writ­ing appear unprofessional.
  • Dif­fi­cult to understand
  • Con­sis­ten­cy with sen­tence struc­tures makes your writ­ing flow more naturally.
  • This list is terrible.

Each bul­let point should make sense when being read with the top sen­tence alone.

Consistency of Style

How­ev­er you are approach­ing your bul­let points, stick to it. If you’re begin­ning each point with a cap­i­tal, do it for every point. If you’re using bul­let points, mini bul­let points, arrows, num­bers or let­ters to denote that we’re now enter­ing list ter­ri­to­ry, be con­sis­tent through­out the list.

Length

Bul­let points should be con­cise, punchy and cut right to the chase. Keep them short, sim­ple and full of key­words. Stick to para­graphs for longer chunks of text and stick to shop­ping lists for bul­let points that run on and on. And on.

 

Still not sure?

A Way With Words is a content writing service based in Milton Keynes (but with a laptop that travels the world). Worried that your bullet points aren’t right or simply want someone else to worry for you?

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