Friday, August 7, 2009

It's called a "bulleted" list for a reason.

The reason being that, in far too many instances, when I encounter one I feel like putting a bullet in my head!

Not unexpectedly, the bulleted list continues to rear its ugly head in the proposal center on a regular basis.

So I finally reiterated what I recommended shortly after walking in the door at the beginning of last year. Here's my email to the entire proposal center and related management:

"There has been some feedback this week about inconsistency regarding punctuation in bulleted lists. The inconsistency is due in part to two editors working on a proposal and, importantly, the absence of any hard-and-fast rule regarding this most difficult of style issues.

"In all my years of editing, I have seen just one rule that works and is easy to remember: NO CLOSING PUNCTUATION FOR ANY AND ALL ITEMS ON THE LIST. That rule came about after many months of agonizing debate among a group of eight editors I worked with. Finally, we agreed on two things: (1) there is no right or wrong answer on this; rather, it is a question of personal preference; and (2) we needed a rule that all writers and editors could easily remember and apply.

"This would apply to sentences and non-sentences alike, and items that are questions similarly end with no punctuation.

"The first word of every item has an initial capital letter. Items do not end with a semi-colon; the penultimate item does not end with a semi-colon followed by "and".

"So, my strong, unequivocal recommendation is NO CLOSING PUNCTUATION FOR ANY AND ALL ITEMS ON THE LIST.

"Any other approach produces one of two results, both of which I consider unacceptable. First, if we end every item (even just one word) with a period, it looks consistent but is grammatically incorrect.

"Second, if we are grammatically correct and only use periods for items on a list that are complete sentences, then it looks inconsistent.

"That's my two cents, and I'm sticking with it!"