Monday, November 01, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Lists, lists, lists...

Lists are an everyday occurrence for some of us, but for others, they are only for special occasions (birthday wish lists, anyone?). No matter how frequently lists make their way into your life, you should know how to list correctly! It's not too much trouble to remember, and if you forget the guidelines, you can always refer back to The Chicago Manual of Style for a little hint.

First and foremost, all items in your list should be syntactically alike, whatever the context. Lists can be written with or without numerals or letters; lists that utilize numerals or letters should do so for a reason, be it to clarify order, show importance, or otherwise. And, of course, lists can be written out in sentences, or set apart as vertical lists (think grocery lists).

Simple and short lists work well in sentence structure, such as: She needed to remember to buy milk, butter, and sugar. Lists that appear within sentences are often set apart by colons, as well. If the introduction to the list is an independent clause, go ahead and use a colon. For example: The grocery store used three types of tags for pricing their items for sale: green produce tags, red clearance tags, and yellow tags.

Longer lists can be used in sentence form as well, but they are easier on the eyes to list out vertically, if it is possible. For a long vertical list, it's best to introduce it with a complete sentence followed by a colon, and then begin your listing. Numbers or even bullets can be used for vertical lists. Closing punctuation is not necessary in vertical lists unless each item requires multiple sentences, or is numbered. In the case of list items that run long, indent the second, third, and any following lines so that they line up with the number of the item.

No matter how big, small, important, or inconsequential your list is, these guidelines are great to reference.

No comments:

Post a Comment