Punctuation for lists (Part 1)

DISPLAY LISTS ARE IDEAL when you want to list three or more items in your document. birdsIt is easier for your readers to follow, since they are visually itemized and easier to remember and make reference to the issues being addressed.

There are two ways to create a display list. Either introduce the list with a complete sentence (this is the ideal way) or introduce the list with a phrase or word. Punctuation plays a major role either way.

Here is an example for you to refer to. Pay particular attention to the use of punctuation in each case.

Example of list introduced by a complete sentence

Here are seven things to include when you pack for your vacation:

  • A tube of toothpaste, because most hotels never have toothpaste available.
  • A phone charger and cord (buying a new one may be expensive).
  • Sunscreen products, for protection from head to toe.
  • An umbrella, because weather happens.
  • Enough of your medication, to avoid the inconvenience of getting them refilled.
  • Your favorite snacks, cheaper than buying them in a store on site.
  • A box of large plastic baggies, for shells and trinkets you may pick up and for clothes you don’t get to wash.

Notice the punctuation in the list. The introduction is a complete sentence, followed by a colon.

Each bulleted item ends with a period, even though they are phrases and not complete sentences.

The period is used at the end of each item because some of the bulleted items contain punctuation (commas). Therefore, all should end with a period.

What if all the items were short phrases?

Here are seven things to include when you pack for your vacation:

  • A tube of toothpaste
  • A phone charger and cord
  • Sunscreen products
  • An umbrella
  • Enough of your medication
  • Your favorite snacks
  • A box of large plastic baggies

Notice that none of the bulleted items has any punctuation. Each one is a short phrase (not a complete sentence). Therefore, there is no need to have any punctuation within this list.

Note: This list might also be numbered, since a number (7) is mentioned in the introductory sentence.

 In my next post, I will talk about a display list that is introduced by a phrase or a word.


About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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