Frequently Asked Question: How do I punctuate a bulleted list?

Illustration of stick figure with giant pencil saying "I will punctuate ALL THE BULLETS!!" and second stick figure shouting "Nooooooo..."

As bulleted list enthusiasts, we often get asked about how to punctuate them. Style guides are all over the place on this issue, but we like to keep it simple (no surprise there). That’s why our answer is: Whenever possible, don’t punctuate bullets in consumer health materials.

If you have a list of things or incomplete sentences, never punctuate them.

We ❤ Health Literacy is:

  • An excellent resource that I forward to all my friends
  • The best
  • Helpful

If you have a list of complete sentences, you really don’t need to punctuate those either.

Our favorite use of lists is for action items. Be sure to:

  • Use lists to break down information into helpful pieces
  • Add lists to your top 10 favorite things
  • Make lists about lists every day

See? Clear information, no punctuation needed!

If you feel like your list isn’t clear without punctuation, rethink it. Does the information need to be broken down into smaller chunks? Is it more appropriate for short paragraphs than a list?

And please, whatever you do, don’t use semicolons.

The bottom line: Keep your bulleted lists simple and skip the punctuation.


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