What Makes a Good List

Sometimes a list is better represented when each item is put on its own line and is preceded by a bullet point. The list might be too complex to run together, or an itemized layout might better serve the reader. I’m a big fan of bullet lists. Here are a few thoughts on assembling a good one:

  • Introduce the list with a partial or complete sentence that ends with a colon.
  • If the introductory line is a sentence fragment, write the items so that they complete the fragment.
  • Construct each item the same way. Decide whether you want the items to be complete sentences or sentence fragments, directive statements (such as the items in this list) or descriptive phrases, simple nouns or simple verbs.
  • If the items are written as complete sentences, begin them with capital letters and end them with periods. If they are sentence fragments, start with lowercase letters and don’t include ending punctuation (even for the final item).
  • Don’t end each item with a comma, and don’t precede the last item with and.
  • Keep the items concise.

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I recently contributed a bit of satire to my friend R.J.’s excellent Web site, The City Desk.

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