Re: Bulleted & Numbered Lists: Indented or Flush Left?

Subject: Re: Bulleted & Numbered Lists: Indented or Flush Left?
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 29 May 1995 15:30:22 PDT

Laurie Rubin writes:
>The question is, readability -- do you want you readers to be able to
>quickly and easily locate the info. in a bulleted or a numbered list?
>If yes, indenting does just that. I vote for indent.

* That's not readability, that's skippability (to coin a word): the
ease with which the reader can AVOID reading the document by skipping
to something that looks like it might tell him something.

* But whether the bullet or numeral itself is indented is irrelevant,
so long as the rest of the paragraph is. In other words, the
previous paragraph, with a flush-left bullet, would not be more
difficult to find when skipping merrily over the running text.
While the bullets have differing amounts of indent, the actual
text of the two paragraphis is indented by the same amount. The
reader's eye is grabbed both by the bullet itself and by the
white space of the indented section.

** Lots of people gravitate toward extremely dense and obnoxious
** bullets. The effect of big, black, blotchy bullets is to drag
the reader's eye to the bullet, in preference to any other fiddling
material on the page, such as paragraphs. Or chapter headings.

o My personal preference is for a bullet that is easy to find if
you're scanning for it, while still knowing its place: subordinate
to all headings, and not too distracting to the reader who's trying
to read the section without skipping. I often use hollow bullets
for this. I usually stick the bullet in the left margin, to show
my allegiance to the basic layout of the document, and indent
modestly -- no more than a quarter of an inch. I don't indent
the right margin, because I can't think of a good reason for doing

5. My numbered lists are, of course, formatted with exactly the same
parameters as bullet lists, but of course have numbers instead
of bullets.

6. If you're drop any numbers, you have to use a numbered list. If you
use an intro like, "Snow White discovered that the cottage was
equipped with the Seven Dwarfs option, which consisted of..." then
you'd better pony up a numbered list, not a bullet list. You gotta
drop the other dwarf . . . I mean, "shoe."

-- Robert

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