May 19, 2004

I'm embarassed. I've conciously edited someone's writing by adding periods to all full sentences in bullets, and removing bullets from all incomplete sentences. I hadn't thought that this may curtail its authority.

Using a period at the end of a bulleted or numbered list is often based on whether the list items are complete sentences. But consider this scenario. You have two lists separated by a single sentence. In the first list, the items form complete senteces. Therefore, you terminate all the items in the list with periods. In the second list, none of the items form a complete sentence. Therfore, you do not use periods. A reader, noticing this obvious difference but not knowing the rule behind it, may consider it sloppy writing, casting doubt on the authority of the author. ... Periods are used for things besides terminal punctuation: decimals and ellipses, for example. Therefore, consider using a period at the end of a list item not as terminal punctuation for a sentence but as terminal punctuation for an item.

Connatser, Brad. Reconsidering Some Prescriptive Rules of Grammar and Composition. Technical Communication. 51. 2.

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