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Punctuation with bulleted lists


I often see bulleted lists with a variety of punctuation used at the end of each point. Sometimes there are semicolons, sometimes periods and sometimes nothing at all. Is there a Government of Canada preference or guideline for punctuating bulleted lists?


The Government of Canada's guidelines on punctuating bulleted lists can be found in The Canadian Style, which states that "Vertical lists can be punctuated in a number of ways, but the writer should ensure that punctuation is consistent throughout the text." So, whichever punctuation you choose, be sure to use it consistently both within an individual list and throughout all other bulleted lists in the document.

That said, there are rules governing how punctuation may be used. For instance, in a vertical list, a semicolon follows each item if one or more of those items contain internal punctuation. A semicolon also follows each item in a vertical list that ends in and or or (even if the items contain no internal punctuation). Also, if you use a semicolon after each item, put a period after the final item. For example:

The successful candidate will possess the following:

  • bachelor's degree;
  • two years of related experience;
  • excellent written and verbal communication skills; and
  • ability to manage multiple tasks.

However, if the items are complete sentences, they should begin with a capital letter and end in a period. For example:

Candidate A presents the following qualifications:

  • She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of New Brunswick.
  • She was a regular volunteer reporter/writer for the UNB student newspaper, The Brunswickan.
  • Upon graduation, she was hired by NB Power, where she worked for three years as an account executive.
  • Her responsibilities in that position included liaising with clients, conducting statistical analysis and writing reports.