Using Numbered Lists and Bulleted Lists in Online Content

Numbered lists and bulleted lists draw the eyes of your readers. Text is easier to read and easier to scan in list format. Lists also do the following:

  • Create white space on the page
  • Make your copy shorter
  • Show level of importance or sequencing
  • Keep related items chunked together

Numbered lists work best when the order or sequence is important. Bulleted lists work best when the order doesn’t matter, but items in the list are related. Other formatting and stylistic considerations include:

  • Capitalization
  • Punctuation
  • Parallelism
  • Consistency

Numbered lists for online content

Numbered lists not only show that items are related, but also show that the sequence or order of the information matters. Lists in numbered order are also useful when the items in the list might be referred to somewhere else in the content. The numbers create a frame of reference even when the particular order may not be important. Use numbered lists:

  • when you are describing steps, instructions or rules
  • when you want to show the order of the list matters
  • when you want to refer to items in the list in later content.

You can also use letters to indicate a sequential order of items in a list using an a-b-c format.

Bulleted Lists for online content

Bulleted lists are ideal when the sequential order of items is not important. Two things to consider with bulleted lists include:

  • making sure each item carries the same weight of importance
  • keeping each item approximately the same length when possible
  • starting each item in the list with the same part of speech.

Taking a list of items or pieces of information that are in sentence form and putting them into a bulleted list format makes the content easier to scan and read.

Before:

The first thing to consider with online content is creating scan friendly content. The second thing to consider is using clear and concise language. The third thing to consider is writing engaging and compelling content.

After:

When writing online, you should consider:

  • how easily the material can be scanned
  • how clear and concise the language is
  • how engaging and compelling the copy is.

Capitalization and punctuation of lists for online content

Punctuation and capitalization of numbered and bulleted lists depends on the information in the list and how it is introduced.

If you use a sentence to introduce a list in complete sentences, the bullet points use specific formatting:

  • The first word of each bullet is capitalized.
  • Each sentence uses a period at the end.
  • Each sentence requires parallel structure.

If you use a sentence to introduce a list of items in fragments, the bullet point uses specific formatting:

  • Optional capitalization of first word
  • No period at end of each list item
  • Parallelism of each list item

If you use a fragment to introduce a list, the bullet points:

  • do not have the first word capitalized
  • do not include ending punctuation
  • do require a period after the final item
  • do need to complete the sentence logically
  • do require a parallel structure.

Parallelism in list elements for online content

Any items in a bulleted list or a numbered list must stay parallel. Start each bullet or number with the same part of speech and sentence construction. Unparalleled lists are more awkward to read and hurt the quality of content.

Consistency is the key to using lists effectively in online content whether it’s for yourself or for paid writing assignments through Write.com. The type of lists you use don’t matter as much as presenting them in the correct way and staying consistent throughout an entire piece.