RE: Correct punctuation for bulleted lists

Subject: RE: Correct punctuation for bulleted lists
From: "Michael West" <mwest -at- oz -dot- quest -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 20:23:33 +1100

Style guides and editors differ on this. The general principle, as I see it,
is that vertical space replaces end-punctuation in lists of simple terms and
fragments. (In lists of complete sentences, end punctuation and initial caps
are required for comprehension.)

Not everyone agrees. Conservative editors prefer end punctuation in vertical
lists. If you are following conservative rules, though, it seems to me
inconsistent to do as you did and end-punctuate only the last item in the
list -- although I have seen it done. A conservative -- and consistent --
style of list punctuation might produce the following.

The audit activities Wazoo Software records for a user are the following:
- adding widgets,
- removing widgets, and
- viewing widget content.

Note that the "stem" clause has been made into an independent clause to
conform to traditional grammar rules.

Now, many would find the above conventions too fussy. More "modern," more
relaxed rules would dispense with the end-punctuation on list items that are
single terms or short fragments. Some modern style guides condone your
fashion of using a sentence fragment to introduce the list and following it
with a colon ("The audit activities Wazoo Software records for a user are:
) -- even though this clearly deviates from traditional punctuation rules,
which don't allow separating the verb "are" from its complement by a colon.
You wouldn't do it in a normal, run-in sentence, so why do it in a vertical
list? I personally find the colon after the fragment annoying and completely
unnecessary. The colon tells me nothing that isn't obvious already -- without
the presumption of inventing a new use for colons.

Anyway, let's dispense with the idea that there is a "correct" way to
punctuate vertical lists. Logic and consistency are key; and adding to that I
would beg writers to avoid inventing new rules unnecessarily. Most of the old
ones still work pretty well.

Michael West
An old editor

> -----Original Message-----
> From: bounce-techwr-l-31102 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
> [mailto:bounce-techwr-l-31102 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of @??
> Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2000 6:51 AM
> Subject: Correct punctuation for bulleted lists
> What is the correct (standard?) punctuation for the following structure?
> (The list below is bulleted, I just put it in plain text for readability.)
> The audit activities Wazoo Software records for a user are:
> - adding widgets
> - removing widgets
> - viewing widget content
> Should the last bullet (viewing widget content) have a period?
> Thanks,
> Sue Deichmann

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