Lists have won a special place on the web. This is because most online readers prefer straightforward information and they want to go directly to the meat of the article that they are reading.
Here are some important guidelines on how to format lists:
1. Numbered and Unnumbered
There are two basic categories for lists. These are the numbered and unnumbered formats. The numbering of items signifies a priority or sequence. It implies that a certain order has to be followed hence it is numbered. There are actually lots of articles that contain numbered lists but they don’t necessarily require numbers.
2. The Bullets
Bullets are items in unnumbered lists which are often preceded by dots or hyphens.
3. The Introductory Sentence
Numbered and unnumbered lists are always preceded by an introductory sentence which is usually a complete sentence that ends with a colon: An example to this would be: “To enjoy the benefits of exercise, you should follow these tips:”
Alternatively, you can also make your introductory sentence the beginning of the items listed under it. Just make sure that each item on the list can complete the introductory sentence. “To enjoy the benefits of exercise, you need to” – would be a fine example of this type of introductory sentence.
4. The Single Items
There is no standard rule for the use of single words or complete sentences in lists. However, if the first item is a complete sentence, it would be good to be consistent with it. Always capitalize the first letter of the list and end it with a period only if it is a complete sentence.
If you opt for the incomplete setup as your introductory sentence, each of the items on the list should be able to make the introductory sentence complete. Always end list items with a period and not with a comma or semicolon. Avoid adding the word “and” to the second-to-the-last item in the list.
6. Is a list more appropriate?
There are times when some items don’t necessarily require them to be presented in a list format. These include a few items which can be included in a sentence and separated by commas.
If the items in the list are more than one sentence long, it would be good to present them in bulleted of numbered format.