RE: Periods and bullets

Subject: RE: Periods and bullets
From: "Marci Bethel, RMB Editorial Services" <mhbethel -at- rmbeditorial -dot- com>
To: "'John Posada'" <jposada99 -at- gmail -dot- com>, 'List, Techwriter' <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2009 16:19:15 -0700

John wrote:
My position is that a bullet list of gragments gets no
period:

The crate had
- oranges
- apples
- lemons

and her position is that the last bullet gets a period.

The crate had
- oranges
- apples
- lemons.

Any validity to this?
------------------------

No. You're right; you can cite CMoS 15, 6.127 if you need an
authority. CMoS 6.127 also advises that the introductory
phrase should be a complete sentence that ends in a colon
(for example, "The crate had the following contents:").

Your co-worker might be thinking of a situation in which the
introductory phrase and the fragments are treated and
punctuated as a sentence, but that case would require
additional punctuation (CMoS 15, 6.129).

Also, here is a relevant Q&A from CMoS online
(www.chicagomanualofstyle.org):

Q. What are the proper guidelines for punctuating the
phrases/clauses in a bulleted list?

A. Many people have been asking us about how to punctuate
vertical lists?numbered, unnumbered, and bulleted. Do you
capitalize the first letter of each new item? What about
terminal punctuation? Periods? Semicolons? Commas? The
following list will, I hope, answer these questions:

Vertical lists are best introduced by a grammatically
complete sentence (i.e., a sentence that is still a sentence
all by itself, without the help of the list), like the one
above, followed by a colon.

No periods are required at the end of entries unless at
least one entry is a complete sentence, in which case a
period is necessary at the end of each entry.

Items in a list should be syntactically similar.

If items are numbered, as they are in this example, a period
follows each number, and each entry begins with a capital
letter?whether or not the entry forms a complete sentence.

Bulleted lists are considered appropriate mainly for
instructional or promotional material and are treated the
same as numbered lists in terms of capitalization and
punctuation.

A group of unnumbered items each of which consists of an
incomplete sentence should begin lowercase and requires no
terminal punctuation.

If a list completes the sentence that introduces it, items
begin with lowercase letters, commas or semicolons are used
to separate each item, and the last item ends with a period;
such lists are often better run into the text rather than
presented vertically.

That?s Chicago style, in any case. I think this style
demonstrates a marriage between the principles of
consistency and grammatical integrity?and in this marriage
there are some compromises. If you are dissatisfied with a
list after applying these principles, consider rewriting the
list or scrapping the list format altogether. Vertical lists
are usually introduced to highlight and clarify a principle;
any awkwardness can destroy their raison d?être.

HTH,
Marci


Marci Bethel, Freelance Technical Editor
RMB Editorial Services, www.rmbeditorial.com
www.linkedin.com/in/marcibethel
mhbethel -at- rmbeditorial -dot- com

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References:
Periods and bullets: From: John Posada

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