Follow the guidelines below when deciding how to format a vertical list.
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Vertical lists can be punctuated in a number of ways, but the writer should ensure that punctuation is consistent throughout the text.
The colon is generally used to introduce vertical lists. When the sequence of a list is random or arbitrary, the various elements may be simply indented or set off with bullets or em dashes:
These factors should determine committee size:
- Number of employees at the work site
- Variety of functions
- Number of trade unions
- Number of shifts
A colon can be used to introduce a vertical list even if the items in the series are a complement or object.
The supplies to be purchased include:
- a tent
- two air mattresses
- a camp stove
However, it is better to use a full sentence before the colon, as shown below.
The supplies to be purchased include the following:
Use a semicolon after each item (and a period at the end of the list) if one or more items contain internal punctuation, or after each item of a list ending in and or or, even if the items contain no internal punctuation:
The Bureau has set the following priorities for the coming year:
- Determining customer needs;
- Improving teamwork and internal communication;
- Updating equipment to increase turnaround time; and
- Initiating quality-assurance procedures.
Items made up of sentences should begin with a capital letter and end in a period (or question mark):
The following factors affected grain yield:
- Rainfall was exceptionally low in June and August.
- The hailstorm of September 12 damaged crops in southern Alberta.
If a comma or semicolon is used after each item in a list, put a period after the final item.
Numbers and letters, enclosed in parentheses or followed by a closing parenthesis or period, are used to introduce items in lists where precedence or sequence is important:
The tasks assigned to the committee are as follows:
- setting up safety programs
- monitoring the programs
- dealing with employee complaints
- maintaining complete records
- making recommendations
Punctuation can be omitted after each item if the items are brief. Otherwise, a comma, semicolon or period is generally used.
Practice regarding capitalization of items in vertical lists varies.
The first word of each item is usually capitalized when the item is a complete sentence or when the annunciatory statement is a complete sentence.
The first word of each item is usually lower-cased if the items in the list are syntactically linked to the introductory statement, especially if the list is not introduced by a colon:
This versatile program can be applied to
- personal development
- management development
- career counselling
- team building
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