Re: Re[2]: Correct punctuation for bulleted lists

Subject: Re: Re[2]: Correct punctuation for bulleted lists
From: Christi <christi -at- sageinst -dot- COM>
To: Harry Hager <hhager -at- dttus -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 13:23:07 -0800

Harry Hager at hhager -at- dttus -dot- com wrote:
> Here are some examples:
> - ebay = a copyrighted proper name and therefore not capitalized
> - eBIS = a copyrighted proper name of the company I work for and therefore

> I'm stuck in a rut with the e's but you get the idea.


> I do it because it is a bulleted list; it is not a sentence. Bulleted lists
> do not follow the grammar and punctuation rules of a sentences. Bulleted
> lists have their own grammar and puntuation rules.


> How many references would you like that say initial caps in the first word
> of an item in a bulleted list is okay and even proper?

Well, unfortunately, I'm sure that much will change me at this point...

> You could probably find some references that say not to
> capitalize them but I'd bet that they are not written for technical
> writers.

I do have Editing for Writers by Lois Johnson Rew, which, while I couldn't
find a specific rule, in the text she doesn't use init. caps if the bullets
aren't sentences.

> Question. When you write an outline, do you use initial caps for the first
> word in each line?

Similar to what you wrote above, a bulleted list is not equivalent to an
outline and thus shouldn't require the same grammar and punctuation rules.

> Perhaps we simply agree to disagree on the grammar and punctuation rules
> for bulleted lists.

I think so.

My last note on the matter. I used to use capitals at the beginning of
bullets. But a teacher in a class I took said something that actually made
sense. Hopefully I can repeat it in a worthwhile manner.
The bullet in a bulleted list, without question, sets apart the text so you
know it's different that what came before and what comes after. Capital
letters have, historically (am I stretching that?), been reserved for the
beginning of sentences, proper nouns, and other such things. The bullet
should be enough punctuation in and of itself to separate the text. So, if
the text of the bullet is not one of those things, why use it? Why give
redundant importance (redundant to the use of the bullet itself) to the

I guess I just don't see the added benefit. And yes, I think we'll have to
agree to disagree! =)

Christi Carew
Technical Writer

christi -at- sageinst -dot- com
p. 831-761-6565
f. 831-761-2452

Sage Instruments
240 Airport Blvd.
Freedom, CA 95019

You can never entirely stop being what you once were. That's why it's
important to be the right person today, and not put it off till tomorrow.
- Larry Wall

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