Grammar Tip – Punctuation With Lists

What punctuation should I use with a bulleted or a numbered list? This is a commonly-asked question.

Although many writers like to use bulleted lists in their business documents, list writing is difficult. You must be consistent. Your lists must contain all sentence fragments or all complete sentences. Your lists should never be a mixture of ideas.

Correct (list of complete sentences)?Your speech should include the following points:

  • Our organization’s success is based on a proven record of relationship building.
  • We use established techniques for identifying potential partners.
  • We have seven branch offices across the country.

These points are complete sentences so they end with periods. Semicolons are considered dated.

Correct (list of sentence fragments)

At the meeting, we will discuss:

  • Budgeting
  • Recruiting
  • Marketing

As these points are sentence fragments, there is no punctuation. Whether you capitalize the first letter after the bullet or not is optional. When you insert a bulleted list, the first letter is automatically capitalized. You can overstrike each letter if you wish and lowercase it. However, it is not necessary. As long as the first letter in each point is consistent, you are fine. Personally, I like the capital letters.

The style of a few organizations is to place a period after the final point and to use lowercase first letters. It is not wrong. It’s just a little extra work.

Example

At the meeting, we will discuss:

  • budgeting
  • recruiting
  • marketing.
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