Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Colon with a bulleted list

Question:

What is the correct way to introduce a bulleted list? Can I use a colon? I want to say something like:

  • Some of the highlights of the project include: (and then list the highlights with bullets).

Answer:

The Handbook for Writers (1999) says "A colon should only be used when the first clause is grammatically complete. Do not use a colon between a verb and its complement or its object, or between a preposition and its object." The Canadian Style agrees. If you use your clause as it is worded now, the object (the items in the list) is separated from the verb (include) by the colon.

You must re-write your clause so that the object of the verb include appears before the colon. We would suggest simply inserting the following, so that your sentence reads like this:

Some of the highlights of the project include the following:

  • the launch of an interactive website;
  • free access to a major database; and
  • a virtual library of cutting-edge research.

In the above example, the phrase the following acts as the object for the verb include and appears before the colon.