Handy Tips for Using Bullet Points
Image courtesy of Danel Solabarrieta (CC 2.0 Flickr)
These days people are too busy to read long texts, so improving readability has become important. Make content uncomplicated and interesting to read, and you may have the reader’s attention.
Bullet points can be very handy in this context, as they help break up clunky text into tidy chunks that are easy to take in. Use a bulleted list, and your text begins to look organised, with all the important points highlighted.
Though there are no hard and fast rules about using them, here are some tips to help you.
Keep it uniform
A bulleted list should be uniform. For example, make the text following all bullet points fragments, complete sentences, or questions; do not combine different forms.
Punctuate if necessary
Broadly speaking, if a bullet point is a complete sentence, it should begin with a capital letter and end in a full stop. On the other hand, if each bullet point comprises a fragment, these things don’t matter.
Avoid linking words
It is best to avoid linking words (e.g. firstly, secondly, thirdly), as they are unnecessary; bullet points naturally introduce a sense of structure to the text. Linking expressions, if added, may slow down the reading process, so leave them out.
Keep it short
Brevity is the key to making bullet points noticeable, so avoid making them extremely long. Ideally, bullet points shouldn’t look like paragraphs. Remember, the longer the text following a bullet point, the lower its impact.
Create parallel lists
Try to have similar-looking words at the beginning of each bullet point – for instance, start with action verbs or nouns. That way, it is much easier for the reader to follow the text.
Use numbers if necessary
If you have a lot to include, say more than five points, it may be better to have a numbered list instead of a bulleted one. The reader can then easily refer to each point by quoting the corresponding number.
Overall, there’s no doubt that bullet points can make content attractive and easy to read, but overuse will most certainly lessen their impact. So, steer clear of too many bullet-pointed sections when you put together a text.
|Meaning||:||heavy in a way that is awkward|
|Example||:||His house is full of clunky furniture.|
|Meaning||:||to understand something that your read|
|Example||:||Irene felt sleepy while reading the manual, so she didn’t take in most of the details.|
|hard and fast|
|Meaning||:||describes something that cannot be changed|
|Example||:||There are no hard and fast rules about who can use this car park.|
|Meaning||:||a smaller piece of something larger|
|Example||:||I overheard fragments of the conversation that my parents had in the kitchen.|
|Meaning||:||the use of few words while speaking or writing|
|Example||:||The brevity of her speech surprised us – it was over in less than a minute.|
|steer clear (of something)|
|Meaning||:||to try to avoid something|
|Example||:||You are diabetic, so steer clear of desserts at the party.|