Writing lists

Vertical (bulleted or numbered) lists help break up walls of text, and are useful for highlighting important information. Writing lists well helps users read and understand your content.

10 tips for web writers and editors

  1. Highlight important information with lists
    Use vertical lists (bulleted or numbered) to draw attention to an important list of items or steps. If a list is not worth drawing attention to, use a comma-separated list within a sentence.
  2. Label or introduce lists
    Use a heading or lead-in sentence to provide context for a list.
  3. Write list items in a parallel style
    Lists are faster and easier to read when each item is written in the same way.
  4. Start each item with a different word
    Move repeated words or phrases to the end of a lead-in sentence or rewrite to avoid the repetition.
  5. Begin items with the important words
    Help users see what’s in each item by starting with meaningful words.
  6. Write items concisely
    Wordy lists can lose the benefit of list formatting when they start looking more like paragraphs.
  7. Avoid long lists
    Long lists can look overwhelming. Where necessary, break them into a series of shorter lists.
  8. Avoid pages full of lists
    Use headings and paragraphs to break the visual monotony of several series of lists.
  9. Format lists with the appropriate list style
    Use bulleted points when the order or number of items is not important. Otherwise use a numbered list. Always use proper styles. Never format lists manually using dashes, asterisks or numbers with spaces.
  10. Never use list styles just to indent text
    If you need to indent text, get your web team to develop an indented text style. Never misuse HTML tags to achieve a visual effect.