Re: Numerals and Bullets

Subject: Re: Numerals and Bullets
From: Ian White <ian -at- IFWTECH -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 1996 01:17:39 +0000

In article <s0ecd935 -dot- 018 -at- smtpgate -dot- tnrcc -dot- state -dot- tx -dot- us>, Elizabeth Carmack
>Greetings Folks: I have a question about the use of numerals. I
>understand that style rules say spell out whole numbers between zero
>and nine and use numerals for 10 and above. But what if the number is
>linked to a particular measurement, like miles, cubic inches, etc.?
>Some style guides say always use numerals for certain specific
>measurements, others don't address it. I think writing "a
>1-cubic-inch tube" or "a 3-mile-radius" looks funny. What is the
>consensus out there?

I would spell out numbers less than 10 if they are inherently integer
numbers, e.g. "three apples". If the number just happens to be quoted as
an integer but could inherently take any value, I would always use
numerals. This avoids inconsistencies such as: "A two-inch widget will
fit but a 2.01-inch widget will not."

A hypen between the numeral and the unit is more strongly preferred in
American English than in British English. Let's assume that the hyphen
between "mile" and "radius" was a typo; it shouldn't be there.

>And a question on bullets: When using a bulleted list, is it proper
>to capitalize the first letter of the first word in each item even if
>they are not complete sentences? And what about punctuation? I say
>semicolons to separate them if they are complete sentences and commas
>if they are not.

It's better not to pretend that a bulleted list is some kind of
extended sentence that requires a semicolon after each item. In a list,
the layout itself provides almost all the punctuation that is needed.

Items in the list should always maintain parallel structure, i.e. they
should all be complete sentences or should all be phrases (incomplete
sentences). If each item is a complete sentence, each one definitely
requires an initial capital and a period at the end. If none of the
items is a complete sentence, I still prefer initial capitals for visual
consistency with lists of sentences, but would only use a period at the
end of the whole list.

It seems inconsistent to "launch" a list of complete sentences from an
introductory statement ending with a colon, because that leaves the
introductory sentence hanging unfinished. On the other hand, it seems
more reasonable to launch a list of incomplete sentences from a colon.

These rules seem to work very consistently in a wide range of
circumstances. Above all, they produce lists that are clear and easy to

Ian White | IFW Technical Services, Abingdon, England
| Clear English for high-technology companies

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