How to Use Bullet Points in an Article

Written by geordiejimb

Topics: Articles

Simple Bullet ListBullet points are, in some ways, the perfect tool for writing articles.  A good bulleted list plays a number of roles within your article; from aiding with the reading of the article and getting important points across to your readers, to making the article a far more inviting to read in the first place.

One of the main aims in writing any article should be to get your point across.  Achieving this might not be as straight forward as just writing it all down on the page, presentation of information can often be as important as the information being presented, and one of the best ways to present information in an article is to include bullet points.

Bullet lists are a great aid to:

  • Readability: Bullet-point lists tend to add a lot of whitespace around the text effectively breaking up blocky text, and helping to reduce the ‘overwhelm’ effect of too much text. Scanning: Bulleted lists enable the reader to scan your article and find the most relevant pieces of information fast, and with the hectic lives and easy access to information that’s what most readers look for when searching for information in articles.
  • Comprehension: Presenting lists, in no particular order, in small chunks helps the mind comprehend the grouping of information – a bullet list is nothing more than a collection of somehow-related items.
    • Sub-bullets can also enhance comprehension because there is an instant hierarchy – it’s obvious that this bullet about sub-bullets is related to the topic of Comprehension, for example.
    • Highlighting Key points: Note how each bullet in this list begins with a bolded statement?  This helps to highlight the point of the bullet point, making it easy to see the key point of each one without needing to read the text explanation that expands on the point.

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Bullet List Format:

Bullet -point lists come in two basic styles – ordered (using numbers or letters) and unordered (using the same bullet icon for each point):

  • Unordered List: When you have a group of related items, and the order presented or read doesn’t affect the outcome, then an unordered list works just fine (as in both examples used so far in this article).
  • Ordered Lists: The ordered list is used when the list of related items has a progression, or an order of some sort, such as a How-To type list where you want the reader to follow the points in a specific order to obtain a specific result.

Prior to each bullet point list there is an introduction statement explaining what the list is for, which sets the context of the list to your reader and lets them know what they are about to read.

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Bullet Point Format:

Each list is comprised of two or more points (a single point is just a stand-alone sentence and a bullet point probably isn’t necessary).  Each bullet-point should adhere to some basic formatting:

  • Length: A bullet point should never be more than a single paragraph, a single idea or concept.  If there is more to say than you can fit into one paragraph then the item might not be suitable for a bullet list, or you may want to look at using sub-bullets to get the additional information across
    • Lengthy multiple paragraph bullet points detract from the main benefits of using a bullet list in the first place.
    • Highlight: The focus of the point should be highlighted in some way so it’s easy to identify the topic when scamming the list.
    • Grammar: bullet points have grammar rules all of their own, If your point is:
      • A full sentence, end it with a period
      • Just a word, short phrase, an incomplete sentence it shouldn’t end with any punctuation

Use bullet points when you have several related points to convey to the reader, and your reader will thank you for it.

Particularly on the Internet, people have an almost instant need to know what they are looking at, and with ever-decreasing attention spans due to the instant availability of more information being available on the Internet it’s important to get your message across as soon as possible, in an easy to understand fashion.

Simple tips often give the biggest results, this is one of those times i think!  Let me know what you think of this article in the comments please.

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