Re: Punctuation in vertical lists?

Subject: Re: Punctuation in vertical lists?
From: Brian McCorkle <mccorkle -at- ATHENET -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 22:17:11 -0600

On 2/24/97, Jennifer Masek wrote:

>Hi folks,
>We're having some rather heated discussions around here regarding the
>appropriate punctuation for various sorts of vertical lists in technical
>manuals and procedures. We have prowled our way through Chicago, Judd,
>Horton, GPO, etc. (*Many* etcs) I thought I'd ask the collective wisdom of
>the techwr-lers and see if I could get a feel for the trends.
>We're looking most especially at: (colon here or not?)
> * Bullet lists (period here? semicolon? Caps on initial word?)
> * Unmarked vertical lists such as (colon here or not?)
> dogs (capped or not?) (periods or not?)
> cats
> oxen
> *Terminations of bullet lists (Period here?)
>Are unmarked lists only being used for examples (a la Chicago's infinite
>example sets) or can one use them to complete a phrase?
> Before leaving your campsite, please check to see that you
> are not leaving behind any
> belongings
> trash
> children
>Thanks for your opinions and pointers
>Jennifer Masek
>Information and Document Technology Group
>Technical Publications Department
>Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Interesting. I've been struggling with the same issues. A complication that
I have run into is that there is no consistent usage. For example, in one
recent article in "Poets and Writers" there were two very similar vertical
lists. One was preceded by a colon, the other was not.

I am leaning toward no colon to introduce a vertical list since the colon
is used to signal a list, but where the list is obvious a colon would not
be needed.

The exceptions are
1. "the following" or "as follows" require a colon per article 5.101 in the
14th edition of Chicago.

2. Where the items in the list are fairly long and could be mistaken for
regular paragraphs.

On the other issues, I capitalize the first word of each item in the list.
I think this helps to guide the reader into the item. If each item in the
list is a complete sentence, I would use a period at the end of each item.

I'm glad to see this question.

mccorkle -at- athenet -dot- net

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