We’ve previously written about parallelism in lists and paragraphs, and today, we want to take a closer look at bulleted lists and how to write and format them in a way that maximizes readability and minimizes confusion.
Keep It Simple
A bulleted (or numbered) list is meant to simplify content and enable readers to easily get the information they’re looking for. To that end, a list should be short and to the point — a lengthy list may as well be paragraphs instead.
Depending on the style you’re writing for, you may be restricted to a certain word count in bulleted lists. For example, in Onsite Blogs here at WritersDomain, each item should be no longer than 50 words.
Bulleted lists also give you a unique opportunity to write in sentence fragments. The bullet points don’t need to be complete sentences, so if you can simplify by using fragments, go for it! Here’s an example of a list made of sentence fragments.
When you’re hiring a roofing company, choose a company that:
- Works with the materials you want to use
- Offers cleanup services to keep your yard clean
- Has comprehensive insurance coverage
As you can see, each bullet point is a sentence fragment, and although each point starts with a capital letter, no ending punctuation is necessary with a list made of sentence fragments. Note: If you write a list with complete sentences, you do need ending punctuation for each item.
Keep It Parallel
The sentence or phrase that introduces a bulleted list needs to create a complete, grammatically correct sentence when combined with any of the points in the list.
In the example above, any one of those items could become a complete sentence, as in, “When you’re hiring a roofing company, choose a company that offers cleanup services to keep your yard clean.”
This same rule applies to every item in a bulleted list, no matter how long or short that item is. Each item should be written the same way so that it creates the same type of grammatically correct sentence or phrase.
For comparison, take a look at this unparallel list with the same information.
When you’re hiring a roofing company, use these tips:
- Make sure the company works with the materials you want to use.
- Will the company keep your yard clean? Choose a company that offers cleanup services.
- Choose a company that has comprehensive insurance coverage. You want to ensure that their workers and your home will be protected.
The bullet points in this list don’t match each other — they aren’t parallel.
We have a few ways to fix this. Let’s try something that we haven’t tried yet in this post.
When you’re hiring a roofing company, answer these questions:
- Does the company use the materials you want? Don’t compromise on your vision for your home.
- Will the company keep your yard clean? Choose a company that offers this extra service.
- Do they have comprehensive insurance? Ensure that their workers and your home will be protected.
Bulleted lists can be a great way to set apart different sections of a post and move readers quickly through your content. Keep them simple and parallel, and your content will stand out from the rest.