Posted by: Jack Henry | July 26, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Writing Lists

Good morning, everyone. Today I’m going discuss how to format lists and what kind of lists work best.

There are three ways to format lists in our writing. We can use an inline list, an unordered (bulleted) list, or an ordered (numbered) list. Unordered and ordered lists are also referred to as vertical lists. I’ll discuss all three ways.

Inline List

An inline list works best for short, simple lists, as shown here:

“Please go to the grocery store and pick up lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions.”

However, when you have a longer or more complex list of items, you should consider formatting them in a vertical list. For these lists, you use bullets or numbers, depending on the type of list you are creating.

For a long or complex list of items, use bullets, as the following example shows (this type of list is referred to as an unordered list).

Unordered List

On the way home, I need you to run several errands:

  • Go to the post office and mail your mother’s birthday gift.
  • Stop by the bank and withdraw $100.
  • Go to the grocery store and pick up salad ingredients.
  • Pick up Rover from the groomers.

Note that each bulleted item starts similarly; they have the same grammatical structure. It’s important when writing any kind of list to make sure that the bulleted items are parallel. For more about parallelism, see this article from the Purdue OWL website.

When writing a series of steps that need to be followed in order (a task), use a numbered list, as the following example shows (this is referred to as an ordered list).

Ordered List

Follow these steps to change the battery in your TV remote control:

1. Turn the remote control over and remove the battery cover.

2. Take out the old batteries.

3. Insert two new AA batteries and close the battery cover.

The important thing to remember is to use an ordered (numbered) list only if you’re providing step-by-step instructions.

It’s also important to remember to enjoy your day. Happy Thursday!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

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