Re: Periods in bulleted lists

Subject: Re: Periods in bulleted lists
From: Janice Gelb <janiceg -at- MARVIN -dot- ENG -dot- SUN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 12:51:01 -0700

Geoff Hart wrote:

> Personally, I prefer to handle lists in one of two ways:
> 1. Treat each item as a complete sentence or series of sentences, and
> punctuate accordingly.
> 2. Treat each item as a completion of the phrase that introduces the
> list, and end the item with a comma or (if there are multiple
> clauses) with a semicolon. The second-last item in the list gets a
> terminal "and" or "or", as the case may be, and the last item gets a
> period.
> I don't permit naked fragments: either use complete sentences, or use
> fragments that form complete sentences in combination with the
> introductory phrase. And don't mix fragments with complete sentences;
> parallelism _is_ important.

When I first got into editing and was doing academic editing, the rule
was indeed like option 2: you added punctuation to the ends of the list
items as if they were all part of one sentence started by the
introductory phrase. However, I think that type of punctuation (option
2 above) does a disservice to the readers of technical publications.
Our type of writing necessitates many bulleted lists, and I really
don't think readers read them as being part of one complete sentence.

Nor do I think that never mixing fragments with full sentences is
practical, although as I said before, we do make a distinction at Sun
with our ending punctuation when there is a full sentence in the list.
Paralellism comes into play with the wording of the items, but not
whether they are fragments or full sentences.

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with this
janice -dot- gelb -at- eng -dot- sun -dot- com | message is the return address.

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