Why you should be using bullet points

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When you’re writing for real people, bullet points can be your best friend.

You might have been told that it’s better to write everything out in full. Perhaps you’re worried about being unprofessional or too simplistic.

Whatever your concerns about bullet points are, here are two great reasons to make them part of your writing repertoire:

  1. Bullet points make the reader’s life easier.

Here’s an example of some information without bullet points:

For the field trip, you will need to bring appropriate outdoor clothing. Please make sure you have walking boots as well. We also recommend you bring gloves. The coach will leave at 8am. Please arrive by 7.45am at the latest. In terms of equipment, everyone should have a notebook with them, and a camera or a mobile phone with a camera on it. There are no catering facilities at the site, so it is important that you bring a packed lunch with you. The coach will return at 4.30pm. You may wish to pack a change of clothes.

The key facts are buried in these sentences. The reader has to work hard to dig out the information they need, which is the timings and the items they need to bring.

The writer might have done this because he thought full sentences were more ‘proper’.  There certainly are times when it’s best to write everything out in full, but if you’re writing any kind of list, bullet points are usually the way to go.

Alternatively, the writer may not have realised that he was writing a list at all. This is a common mistake. If you’re not clear about what you’re writing, it will be much harder for the reader to understand and follow your instructions.

Let’s pick out the key information and add some bullet points:

Please arrive for the field trip by 7.45am at the latest. The coach will leave at 8am and return at 4.30pm.

You will need to bring:

  • appropriate outdoor clothing
  • walking boots
  • gloves
  • a notebook
  • a camera (this can be on a mobile phone)
  • a change of clothes
  • a packed lunch (there are no catering facilities on site)

Do you see how bullet points have made this information much clearer for the reader? It’s a great way to quickly transform your writing and make your reader’s life easier.

2. Bullet points make your life easier.

Bullet points are also great for you, the writer. You might feel as though you should disguise a list in more interesting language, but there’s usually no need.

Here’s a writer who has tried to avoid using bullet points:

Singing together since 2014, Wafflington Chamber Choir have won numerous awards in recent years, including first place in the ‘Best performance – senior’ category at the Heart of Wafflington Festival, 2016. Based in North Bumbleshire, we were delighted to come joint third in the ‘Traditional musical ensemble’ competition at Bumbleshire County Performance Awards in 2015. Our choir master Beverley Warble continued to lead us to success in 2017. Previously awarded first place at the ‘Choir of the year’ awards by North Bumbleshire Chamber Music Association in May, we were lucky enough to win ‘Best Christmas choral ensemble’ at Bumbleshire Amateur Musician Awards 2017.

This rather impressive list of awards is tiring to read, and must have been equally tiring to write. The writer has had to work hard to force all these accolades into full sentences. They’ve done their best to make it interesting, but it’s still rather repetitive and hard to follow.

Here’s a much easier option:

Wafflington Chamber Choir is an award-winning choir based in north Bumbleshire. We’ve been singing together since 2014 and our choir master is Beverley Warble.

In recent years we’ve been awarded:

  • ‘Best Christmas choral ensemble’, Bumbleshire Amateur Musician Awards 2017
  • ‘Choir of the year’ (first place), North Bumbleshire Chamber Music Association 2017
  • ‘Best performance – senior’ category, Heart of Wafflington Festival 2016
  • ‘Traditional musical ensemble’ (joint third), Bumbleshire County Performance Awards 2015

Much better. Instead of forcing this list into lengthy, complicated sentences, we’ve taken the easy route and used our trusty bullet points to make it clear and simple. It’s easier to read and easier to write.

Ready for more bullet point action? Come back on Thursday for our next session in the Write for Real People Workshop.


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