Ballistophobia is a fear of bullets. However, unless you are symbolophobic there should be nothing of that calibre to be afraid of in this blog. The bullets targeted here are those typo-baubles that bedeck the page or screen by way of introducing items in a list.

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Solid and hollow; dots; hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades; squares; arrows and dashes; logos, whatever; in numeric or alphabetic order as you prefer, or whatever. A fusillade of bullet points. Nothing says ‘this is a serious document’ in the way that a well-bulleted list can. And, like a grey-suited businessman’s tie, it’s your choice of symbol that may project personality or brand.

These symbols can be:

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Alternatively, as you prefer, your list may be ordered by:

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The bullet point is an old school slug of typographic nicety that can 1. distinguish and 2. make sense of a series of (i) words, (ii) thoughts, (iii) actions or (iv) proposals that might otherwise get lost in a densely signposted a) sentence, b) paragraph, c) page, or, nowadays, d) screen.

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Management needs bullets and the need for bulleted management is clear. More good news:  there is, grammatically at least, no absolutely right or wrong way to execute it. You have license to impose order in your own way.

Just, please, whatever you do, be consistent.

In the examples laid out above I chose to –

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Nothing wrong with that. I was consistent.

Would you have preferred a full stop at the end of each item? Or, perhaps, just at the end of the list? Fair enough, just so long as you do the same thing on every occasion in any given document.

Should I have separated the items in my list as though they appeared in a conventional sentence, employing commas or semi-colons as required? Writer’s choice (depending on house-style).

Perhaps a list, any list or just some lists in particular, would look more impressive with initial caps. OK. Try it.

I choose to:

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It works. But to my taste it is really no more than one sentence with an artificial layout. The capitalisation doesn’t quite make sense to me. There is nothing actually amiss but it does looks wrong to my eye. However, caps or no, it is obviously important that each item in the list matches with the sense of the introductory phrase. Which it does.

What happens if I rephrase the list as a set of questions?

Should I choose to:

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It still makes sense. Because it is consistent. Now look at what happens when it gets mashed up.

If I choose to…

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… then the sense of it all is shot down in a hail of bullets.

So, there we are, it’s simple. Choose your style and stick with it. Bullet points are brilliant – and can make you look brilliant. There’s a bullet with your name on it. So be brilliant. In your own way.

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That really is the only bullet point rule to remember. Unless profligate inconsistency is what rocks your boat and you believe that even your next best text can be improved by a join-the-dots perforation, then, well, you’re the boss:

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