Lists are useful as they allow us to write concisely. But many writers use lists inconsistently, which often detracts from their writing.
Some common mistakes are as follows.
Changing the grammatical structure within bullet points
A common problem is changing from nouns to verbs (or vice versa) at the beginning of individual bullet points. For example:
When signing up a new client, you must:
- enter them into the database (verb)
- open a new file ( verb)
- management notification (noun).
This may look obvious, but it is a common mistake. You can check your structure by reading each bullet point with the initial statement.
Adding extra information to run-on bullet points
When you’re using a run-on list and want to add extra information to a bullet point, you need to think about your punctuation. While it is acceptable to have an additional sentence with no full stop, it looks odd. For example:
If you are going on holiday you need to:
- consider the weather. You may need to take an umbrella (no full stop)
- pack sensibly
- travel light.
Consider using a dash before the additional information, or putting it in brackets. For example:
Before you travel overseas, remember to:
- make sure your passport if current — you will have to pay a premium to get a passport in a hurry
- make sure your passport if current (You will have to pay a premium to get a passport in a hurry.)
Using too many bullet points in a list or page
Lists are convenient, but if you overuse them, your writing loses impact. The two most common mistakes are using:
- too many bullet points in a list
- too many bulleted lists on a page.
Using inconsistent spacing
Another common problem is inconsistent spacing in lists. For example, some lists in the same document have a space between the initial statement and first bullet point, and others don’t.