How to punctuate list stories

Now that everyone is writing list stories with bullet points, you had better know which punctuation mark(s) they require.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

But how do you punctuate and capitalize them?

Here are some general guidelines taken from the Chicago Manual of Style and the American Medical Association Manual of Style.

1. When full sentences are used in a list, the first word should be capitalized and appropriate end punctuation should be used. For example:

The various arguments for and against the use of the serial comma are listed below.

• The AMA Manual of Style and the Chicago Manual of Style advocate for the use of the serial comma to avoid ambiguity.
• Other style guides—most prevalent, the AP Stylebook—shun the serial comma.
• Arguments for omitting the comma are that it’s unnecessary in simple sentences, and that leaving it out often does not change the meaning of the sentence.

2. If you use bulleted lists within a sentence, capitalize and punctuate the list just as you would any other sentence. For example:

The following phrases can easily be shortened into one word:

• during the period,
• at this point in time,
• in regard to, and
• until such a time as.

The exception to this rule: Do not use end punctuation if the list consists of one word or very short phrases. For example:

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.