How to punctuate bulleted lists

Updated February 21, 2017

Writers often wonder if bulleted lists require the same punctuation rules as sentences or paragraphs. Bulleted lists have their own punctuation rules. There are two types of bulleted lists, ordered and unordered. An ordered list just means that your list is numbered; unordered lists are not numbered--they do not need to follow a linear order. Unordered bulleted lists contain some type of bullet symbol instead of a number.

Read your bullet point to find a noun and a verb. If you cannot find both a noun and a verb, or if your bullet point is a sentence fragment, you do not need punctuation.

Punctuate your bulleted lists with standard punctuation, such as periods, if your bullet lists contain full sentences.

Read all of the bullet points. If you find a combination of sentence fragments that you do not punctuate and full sentences that you do punctuate, you have a choice of how to treat the bulleted list. You can either punctuate all items, sentences and fragments, or move the complete sentence to the end of the list and punctuate only the last point.

Know your audience. Some business clients or companies that you work for may perceive that all bulleted lists require punctuation. If so, smile and punctuate all the fragments because "The customer is always right." Doesn't it feel good to know the rules, even if not everyone else does?

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