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Should I Use Bullets or Numbers

Have bullets and numbers ever confused you? Have you wondered whether to capitalize or punctuate your list? Well, you’re not the first one. Here are the rules:


Should I use a numbered list or a bulleted one?

Use a numbered list when you want to indicate a sequence, or when you’re listing things in order of importance.

Use bullets when the items are not sequential or are of equal importance. 

Should I capitalize the first letters of the items in the list?

Yes, you should capitalize the first letter of each item.

Should I use periods at the end of the items?

Use periods when the items are listed as clauses or phrases. For example:

  • Two white boxes with colored designs.
  • One small red box, as per the instructions.
  • Three large cartons.

 Use periods when the items complete the introductory statement. For example:

Students are admitted to the course if they have a

  • High school degree.
  • International Baccalaureate.
  • British Advanced levels.

Do not use periods when the items are short phrases or single words and the introductory statement is complete. For example:

The website had excellent features:

  • Beautiful design
  • Easy navigation
  • Very informative

Word of advice:

Never end a document, article, or e-mail with a list. Always add a sentence or two at the end to give a sense of completeness.


Have I missed out on anything? Are there any other rules?


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Number or Numeral?

Among the many questions I am asked through my website, word-mart.com, the most frequent ones are on numbers – “Should this number be written in figures or in words?” “Should this be a number or a numeral?”


First off, what is the difference between a number and a numeral? A number is a concept for a value. A numeral, on the other hand, is a representation of that concept. For example, if you hear someone say the number 3, you conceive the number in your mind, which makes you understand ‘how many’. When this same number is written down on paper – like “3” – then it becomes a representation of that concept.


Now comes the part on writing down the numbers on paper. Sometimes these are written in figures (e.g. ‘3’), at other times it is spelled out in letters (e.g. ‘three’). In general parlance, a numeral is one that is written in figures, and a number is one that is spelled out. And this is what confuses many – when should a number be written figures, and when should it be spelled out?   


It all depends on the situation, but there are some basic rules. These are:


1. Small numbers are spelled out, and big numbers are written in figures.

2. Never begin a sentence with a numeral.

3. When the number is in the middle of a sentence, spell it out.

4. When using a set of numbers, use numerals.

5. Decimal fractions and percentages should be expressed in numerals, not in words.


To know more about numbers and numerals, and specific cases as to when to write what, visit  this page.


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