Re: Colons, lists, and periods

Subject: Re: Colons, lists, and periods
From: Arthur Comings <atc -at- CORTE-MADERA -dot- GEOQUEST -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 1994 12:27:10 PST

Regarding bulleted-list conventions:

We use a period if any of the items in the list are a sentence or a
good-sided fragment of one. If they're all short items and none of them
needs a period, they don't get periods.

But: We don't start a sentence, and then present several bulleted items
as possible ways of finishing it. I was taught (while working on the
Daily Aztec at San Diego State, Bonni) that a bulleted list is used for
presenting several items of more-or-less equal weight. The "and" is
implied, and each item can stand on its own -- it's not an ending for
some sentence fragment that you may have seen several lines above.

So I would reconstruct Bonni's second example like this:

Here's what you can count on me for:

* Mentioning all picky items, whether anyone wants to hear them or not.

* Coming up with some weird devil's advocate position on any given topic.

* Thoroughly enjoying creating unrest and dissent.

-- to me, that's easier to read. You're not saying "Now, just how was
that sentence supposed to begin?" all the time, and you don't have to
look for that "and" at the end to make sense of the whole set of

Incidentally, I'm using that "Here's" more and more these days. I like
it a lot better than stuff like "the following . . ."

Corte Madera, CA

> John Eldard asks:

> "I would like to hear others style rules for the use of colons for
> bulleted lists. When do I use a period at the end of the bulleted list?
> When do I use periods for each bulleted entry? When don't I use periods
> at all? I have read a few style guides about this, but they do not
> address the use of the period. How do you do it?"

> I use a period when the bulleted item is a complete sentence in and of itself
> (which it rarely is after a colon, but once in a while it can be).

> e.g.

> You can use many different methods to type:
> * Pressing the keys leaves an imprint on the page.
> * Hitting the keys dents your fingers and the keys.
> * Clicking the keys produces a nice beat that you can dance to.

> I use a comma after bulleted items that complete a sentence, with an "and" or
> "or" before the last one and a period at the end of that same last one.

> e.g.

> Count on me to:
> * Mention all picky items whether anyone wants to hear them or not,
> * Come up with some weird devil's advocate position on any given topic, and
> * Thoroughly enjoy creating unrest and dissent.

> I use no punctuation after bulleted items that form a list of individual
> elements.

> e.g.

> I like to eat:
> * Steaks
> * Macaroni and Cheese
> * Baked potatoes with butter and Guyere cheese
> * Chili

> I don't know if this is technically correct, but it's at least consistent, and
> people always seem to know what I mean.

> NOTE: This is how I do things in print -- on this list I just type them any
> which way. Y'all seem to get my drift ok, so I don't worry as much.

> Bonni Graham |
> Technical Writer |
> Easel Corporation, ENFIN Technology Lab | Never tell people how to
> Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com | do things. Tell them
> President, San Diego STC | what to do and they will
> | surprise you with their
> NOTE: apparently my email address needs | ingenuity.
> to be typed exactly as it appears here, |
> punctuation and all, or the system gets | --George Patton
> upset. |

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