punctuating the end of bullet points

Subject: punctuating the end of bullet points
From: T K <tvk_tw -at- yahoo -dot- ie>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com, techcomm -at- user -dot- itconsult -dot- co -dot- uk
Date: Wed, 3 May 2006 21:46:18 +0100 (BST)

Hi Technical Writers,

I have a question in relation to punctuation at the end of bullet points. It is my understanding that there are a few options for such punctuation:

1) no punctuation at all
2) use a semi-colon
3) use a period

and that any option is acceptable once it is used consistently ? not only in that bulleted list but throughout the entire document or publication.

My question concerns the option when no punctuation is used. What should one do if the content of the bullet point has more than one sentence? Obviously with more than one sentence there will be a period at the end of any preceding sentences. It would then seem incorrect to not have a period at the end of the final sentence in the bullet point.

For example, if a styleguide dictates that there will be no punctuation at the end of bullet points what happens for bullet points where there are multiple sentences? One option would be to include a period at the end of ALL bullet points in the list if one (or more) of the bullet points contains more than one sentence. Doing this ensures that THIS bulleted list is punctuated consistently. However, if there are OTHER lists of bullet points in the same document that contain no more than one sentence (or term or whatever the bullet point consists of) then these bulleted lists do not require a period at the end in order to conform to the style guide. However there will be inconsistent punctuation between different lists of bullet points in the document.

Perhaps the simplest solution is to use a period at the end of all bullet points? But there is an argument in favour of the aesthetic appeal when no punctuation is included at the end of bulleted lists of short terms or phrases.

Maybe it is acceptable to have no punctuation at the end of bullet points containing brief content and periods at the end of bullet points containing multiple sentences, within the one document?

Am I analysing this too much or has anyone else encountered this issue?

Tom.






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