How to Write Bullets

How to Write Bullets

A list of bullet points can make your content more readable and easier for your readers to digest. While bulleted lists are particularly popular in advertising copy and online, they're also useful in academic and business papers and reports. Although there are no hard and fast rules for writing a bulleted list, following basic structure guidelines and using consistent formatting will help ensure that your bullet points are more effective.[1] X Research source

Method 1 of 3:
Formatting Your List

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1
Write a strong heading to describe what the bullet points will cover. For some bulleted lists, you'll have a single heading with the type of items on the list. In other lists that fall within a larger article, you might have a sentence fragment that introduces the list, followed by a colon. [2] X Research source For example, suppose you're writing a list of ingredients for an apple pie. You might simply write the word "Ingredients" followed by a bulleted list of the ingredients. On the other hand, if you were writing a longer article about traditional American desserts, you could write "For an apple pie, you need the following ingredients," followed by a colon, then start the bulleted list of ingredients on the next line.
2
Use the same size and style of bullets throughout your document. Keeping your formatting consistent makes your larger document look polished and professional. Your word processing app likely has many different styles and sizes of bullets that you can use. Generally, it's best to keep them simple. [3] X Research source The basic, round bullet is typically most favored. It looks clean, and its simple, predictable style means your readers won't pay too much attention to the bullets themselves. More decorative bullets, such as flowers, arrows, or targets, might be appropriate in more fun documents, but in serious documents, they can be distracting and take away from your overall message.
3
Set the same font and margins for the bulleted text. Most word processing programs format the font size and margins of bulleted lists automatically. Generally, it's best not to deviate from that default formatting. However, if you want to do more to make the list stand out from the rest of the article, make sure the bullets all line up and the formatting is consistent. [4] X Research source If the list is part of a larger article, it generally looks best if you keep your bulleted text the same font size as the rest of the body text.
4
Avoid overusing bulleted lists in a single document. Bullet points help emphasize information. However, if you have several lists over the course of a few pages, your readers will likely skim right over them. Use the list to highlight only the most important points of the document, and keep it to one list every 2-3 pages at most. [5] X Research source If you're writing a more lengthy document, for example, you might use bulleted lists to summarize the key points of each section. An exception might be if you're writing a document like a résumé, which is commonly written as a series of several bulleted lists.
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Method 2 of 3:
Drafting Your Points

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1
Start each bullet point with the same part of speech. Bullet points flow well if they have parallel constructions. If you start the first bullet point with a verb, start all the other bullet points with a verb as well. [6] X Research source For example, if you have a bulleted list of job responsibilities for an intern at your company, you might start each bullet point with an action verb. You could write: As an intern, you will: Proofread copy for typographical errors Mail packages to clients Arrange seating at events If it's awkward or difficult to use the same part of speech for all of your bullet points, choose another way to convey the information so that they can all use the same construction.
2
Use the bullet points to continue the heading that introduces them. Many bulleted lists are introduced with a sentence fragment that ends with a colon. If you ignore the formatting, the list reads like a single sentence. When you read the whole thing aloud, it should make sense as a sentence. [7] X Research source Start each bulleted item based on the last word in your heading. For example, if your heading ends with "responsible for," each of the items in your list would likely start with a gerund (a verb form ending in -ing), such as "driving," "working," or "organizing." If all the list items start with the same phrase, consider adding that phrase to your heading to make the list more efficient. For example, if you have the heading "an intern is" and each of the list items starts with "responsible for," you could change your heading to "an intern is responsible for," which in turn makes the list more actionable and easy for readers to scan.
3
Punctuate each bullet point consistently. Typically, bulleted text consists of a phrase that doesn't require any punctuation at the end. However, if you do add punctuation to the end of any of the bullets in the list, all of the bullets should have the same punctuation. [8] X Research source For example, if you have one bullet point that's a complete sentence and you put a period at the end of it, all the rest of your bullet points should also be complete sentences. If each bullet point isn't a complete sentence, there's also no need to capitalize the first word. However, if you do capitalize one of the bullet points, be sure to capitalize all of them. Typically you do need to capitalize the first word of each bullet point if they are complete sentences.
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Method 3 of 3:
Boosting the Effectiveness of Bullet Points

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1
Add bold or italics for emphasis. Making the first word or phrase in each bullet point stand out from the rest of the text captures your reader's attention and makes the list easier to scan. This tactic is especially effective if the first word of each bullet point is a verb, or if you have a single word or short phrase followed by explanatory text. [9] X Research source Be consistent with formatting. If you add bold or italics to one bullet point, use the same formatting with the others so they all look the same.
2
Keep each point in a list roughly the same length. After you've drafted your bullet points, look at the length of each one. Tighten up your language as necessary so each bullet point is no longer than 2-3 lines and they're all about the same length. [10] X Research source If you have 1 bullet point that's a lot longer than the others, figure out if it has extra information that you don't really need or if it can possibly be broken up into 2 bullet points. If you're going to be publishing your list online, use the preview function on the website to see how the list will look on the actual page. That gives you a better idea of length.
3
Edit each point into a mini-headline that grabs the reader's attention. Whether your bulleted list will be included in a serious business paper or presentation or used as advertising copy, it's something you want your readers to pay attention to. Do this by using persuasive language that fascinates your readers and compels them to read. [11] X Research source For example, suppose you're writing up a list of responsibilities for interns. While this doesn't sound like a task that requires you to make your writing particularly exciting, it's still an opportunity to get potential interns excited about being part of the organization and feel as though they're an important part of the team. In sales copy, use words such as "unbelievable" and "little known" to encourage your readers to believe you're letting them in on a secret.
Image titled Educate Yourself in Summer Without Going to Summer School Step 14
4
Work keywords into your points if you're posting them online. Search engines give bulleted lists a little more weight in search results since they're easy to skim. Using keywords related to your article or bullet points ensures that your article will come up when people search online for those terms. [12] X Research source For example, if you're writing a blog post about the top skills for marketing interns to have, you might include keywords such as "collaborate," "creative," "troubleshooter," "multitasking," and "confident."
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Method 1 of 3:
Formatting Your List

Image titled Achieve Tax Relief from IRS Step 7
1
Write a strong heading to describe what the bullet points will cover. For some bulleted lists, you'll have a single heading with the type of items on the list. In other lists that fall within a larger article, you might have a sentence fragment that introduces the list, followed by a colon. [2] X Research source For example, suppose you're writing a list of ingredients for an apple pie. You might simply write the word "Ingredients" followed by a bulleted list of the ingredients. On the other hand, if you were writing a longer article about traditional American desserts, you could write "For an apple pie, you need the following ingredients," followed by a colon, then start the bulleted list of ingredients on the next line.
2
Use the same size and style of bullets throughout your document. Keeping your formatting consistent makes your larger document look polished and professional. Your word processing app likely has many different styles and sizes of bullets that you can use. Generally, it's best to keep them simple. [3] X Research source The basic, round bullet is typically most favored. It looks clean, and its simple, predictable style means your readers won't pay too much attention to the bullets themselves. More decorative bullets, such as flowers, arrows, or targets, might be appropriate in more fun documents, but in serious documents, they can be distracting and take away from your overall message.
3
Set the same font and margins for the bulleted text. Most word processing programs format the font size and margins of bulleted lists automatically. Generally, it's best not to deviate from that default formatting. However, if you want to do more to make the list stand out from the rest of the article, make sure the bullets all line up and the formatting is consistent. [4] X Research source If the list is part of a larger article, it generally looks best if you keep your bulleted text the same font size as the rest of the body text.
4
Avoid overusing bulleted lists in a single document. Bullet points help emphasize information. However, if you have several lists over the course of a few pages, your readers will likely skim right over them. Use the list to highlight only the most important points of the document, and keep it to one list every 2-3 pages at most. [5] X Research source If you're writing a more lengthy document, for example, you might use bulleted lists to summarize the key points of each section. An exception might be if you're writing a document like a résumé, which is commonly written as a series of several bulleted lists.
Advertisement

Method 2 of 3:
Drafting Your Points

Image titled Identify Substance Abuse in the Work Place Step 9
1
Start each bullet point with the same part of speech. Bullet points flow well if they have parallel constructions. If you start the first bullet point with a verb, start all the other bullet points with a verb as well. [6] X Research source For example, if you have a bulleted list of job responsibilities for an intern at your company, you might start each bullet point with an action verb. You could write: As an intern, you will: Proofread copy for typographical errors Mail packages to clients Arrange seating at events If it's awkward or difficult to use the same part of speech for all of your bullet points, choose another way to convey the information so that they can all use the same construction.
2
Use the bullet points to continue the heading that introduces them. Many bulleted lists are introduced with a sentence fragment that ends with a colon. If you ignore the formatting, the list reads like a single sentence. When you read the whole thing aloud, it should make sense as a sentence. [7] X Research source Start each bulleted item based on the last word in your heading. For example, if your heading ends with "responsible for," each of the items in your list would likely start with a gerund (a verb form ending in -ing), such as "driving," "working," or "organizing." If all the list items start with the same phrase, consider adding that phrase to your heading to make the list more efficient. For example, if you have the heading "an intern is" and each of the list items starts with "responsible for," you could change your heading to "an intern is responsible for," which in turn makes the list more actionable and easy for readers to scan.
3
Punctuate each bullet point consistently. Typically, bulleted text consists of a phrase that doesn't require any punctuation at the end. However, if you do add punctuation to the end of any of the bullets in the list, all of the bullets should have the same punctuation. [8] X Research source For example, if you have one bullet point that's a complete sentence and you put a period at the end of it, all the rest of your bullet points should also be complete sentences. If each bullet point isn't a complete sentence, there's also no need to capitalize the first word. However, if you do capitalize one of the bullet points, be sure to capitalize all of them. Typically you do need to capitalize the first word of each bullet point if they are complete sentences.
Advertisement

Method 3 of 3:
Boosting the Effectiveness of Bullet Points

Image titled Check ACT Scores Step 3
1
Add bold or italics for emphasis. Making the first word or phrase in each bullet point stand out from the rest of the text captures your reader's attention and makes the list easier to scan. This tactic is especially effective if the first word of each bullet point is a verb, or if you have a single word or short phrase followed by explanatory text. [9] X Research source Be consistent with formatting. If you add bold or italics to one bullet point, use the same formatting with the others so they all look the same.
2
Keep each point in a list roughly the same length. After you've drafted your bullet points, look at the length of each one. Tighten up your language as necessary so each bullet point is no longer than 2-3 lines and they're all about the same length. [10] X Research source If you have 1 bullet point that's a lot longer than the others, figure out if it has extra information that you don't really need or if it can possibly be broken up into 2 bullet points. If you're going to be publishing your list online, use the preview function on the website to see how the list will look on the actual page. That gives you a better idea of length.
3
Edit each point into a mini-headline that grabs the reader's attention. Whether your bulleted list will be included in a serious business paper or presentation or used as advertising copy, it's something you want your readers to pay attention to. Do this by using persuasive language that fascinates your readers and compels them to read. [11] X Research source For example, suppose you're writing up a list of responsibilities for interns. While this doesn't sound like a task that requires you to make your writing particularly exciting, it's still an opportunity to get potential interns excited about being part of the organization and feel as though they're an important part of the team. In sales copy, use words such as "unbelievable" and "little known" to encourage your readers to believe you're letting them in on a secret.
Image titled Educate Yourself in Summer Without Going to Summer School Step 14
4
Work keywords into your points if you're posting them online. Search engines give bulleted lists a little more weight in search results since they're easy to skim. Using keywords related to your article or bullet points ensures that your article will come up when people search online for those terms. [12] X Research source For example, if you're writing a blog post about the top skills for marketing interns to have, you might include keywords such as "collaborate," "creative," "troubleshooter," "multitasking," and "confident."
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