Re: introducing lists ...

Subject: Re: introducing lists ...
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 7 Aug 2015 15:12:06 -0700

On 8/7/2015 10:29 AM, Sean Brierley wrote:

Question about using lists. Which would you prefer and why? Does a
requirement for translation make a difference? Assume each of the following
fragments is followed by a list that correctly uses parallel structure.

1) This package includes
2) This package includes:
3) This package includes the following:

I go with 2. I have made a stylistic decision that all introductions end
with a colon, be they a fragment or complete sentence. I know that's
contrary to some grammar positions. I also see "the following" as
superfluous, though I am not opposed to adding it if there's good reason;
is there?

A thousand years ago, or was that just two decades ago, I was taught in a Technical Writing class to introduce the list with a complete sentence, unless each list item would complete the sentence. A few examples were discussed in the class and follow. (an example, get it? :-) )

The instructor's preferred form for list introduction follows.
1. Introduce the list with a complete sentence that mentions a list will follow but does not use a leading introduction, like "the following."
2. Use the same construction for each list item; for example, make every item a complete sentence or make each item a fragment.
3. Use at least three list items in a list.
4. Break up very long lists into smaller lists.

The instructor's second choice list form:
1. Leads with a sentence fragment that is ended with a colon.
2. Is followed by list items that complete the introductory fragment.
3. Capitalizes each list item, although the capitalized letter may be lower case in a complete sentence. (I could have remembered that rule wrong.)

An alternative list form is available for single list items that do not require any context, so they do not have closing punctuation, like the types of lists that follow.
1. Option lists
2. Lists of names
3. Descriptive lists, like colors and styles

That technical writing instructor also disfavored lists:
1. that were connected by punctuation;
2. that could be better shown in any of the list alternatives; and
3. used a conjunction before the last list item.

For me, I find a convention that will work with the style guide I am using and will best present the prevalent list usage in the documentation that I am working with. I also keep my choice of lists consistent. Style jumping can make a reader dizzy... Or is that just me that gets dizzy?


On 8/7/2015 10:29 AM, Sean Brierley wrote:
Question about using lists. Which would you prefer and why? Does a
requirement for translation make a difference? Assume each of the following
fragments is followed by a list that correctly uses parallel structure.

1) This package includes
2) This package includes:
3) This package includes the following:

I go with 2. I have made a stylistic decision that all introductions end
with a colon, be they a fragment or complete sentence. I know that's
contrary to some grammar positions. I also see "the following" as
superfluous, though I am not opposed to adding it if there's good reason;
is there?


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References:
introducing lists ...: From: Sean Brierley

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