When I was a tech writer for DEC, I was taught the importance of a bulleted list. The best lists have 7 – 9 (no more) items in them. All of the list items must have agreement (parallel phrasing) Lists must have a lead sentence that introduces the items, you use numbers for a process or something that is sequential, and bullets for a group of like objects.
I saw the beauty of a bulleted list. It made it easy to see what belonged, it got rid of the fluff. A list got right to the point. People wanted me to use bulleted lists in my tech writing.
And so I did. My editors liked it, my writing got published and everyone was happy.
I fully embraced the use of these literary tools. In fact, I got so good at bulleted lists that during my days as a tech writer, I would send letters home that read:
These are the things I want to tell you about:
- Bullet item 1
- Bullet item 2
Tech writing had pretty much killed my feature and creative writing skills, but it made me be able to get right to the point.
When I started writing for newspapers, they broke me of the bullet habit pretty quickly. News writing is not tech writing I was told over and over (and over.) Drop the bulleted lists and drop them now.
I did as my audience wanted. I wrote long sentences that contained all the list items separated by commas and the very important “and” right before the last item. My editors liked it, my writing got published, everyone was happy.
But a funny thing has happened to writing over the years. Now that so many people read information on the net (and when I say read, I really mean scan) they don’t have time to plow through those long sentences. They want me to do the work for them by putting those important facts and pieces of information up front and center.
In short, they want me to write bulleted lists for them.
There is beauty in a bulleted list. It makes it easy to see what belongs, it gets rid of the fluff. A list goes right to the point. People want me to use bulleted lists in my online writing.
And so I do. My editors like it, my writing gets published and everyone is happy once again.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).
Okay, these are the reasons I like being a writer, the job gives me:
- a way to express myself
- sanity in my own insane way
- a chance to leave something behind should I ever get lost
Bullet photo credit: Longhorndave