If the bulleted list is introduced by a complete sentence, each item in the list should finish with a full stop, not a colon, and each point should begin with a capital letter. For example: Notifications are sent out monthly.
If a list is preceded by a whole sentence, each bullet point must start with a capital letter. Never begin an item in such a list with a capital letter; instead, begin with a lowercase letter and conclude with a full stop, completing the phrase. For example: I. Hello world. II. My name is Joe and I live in California.
To begin a bulleted or numbered list, use a colon. The colon appears just before the bulleted list in this example. For single words or brief sentences in bullet points or numbered lists, capitalization and terminating punctuation are optional. However, for longer passages, ending the sentence with a period is recommended.
There are two forms of the listed: the first without a title and the second with a title. The title should be written in quotation marks.
The colon appears between the list marker and the list itself. In other words, between the paragraph and the next and each subsequent item in the list begins with an indentation. The list term itself is not indented.
For example, here is a list of countries in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain. This list can be put into a document with one country per page. The colon indicates that these are countries rather than elements within the list.
Within each country, regions are also listed such as Germany's Bavaria or Austria's Tyrol. Again, no colon is used since these are elements within the whole of Germany and Austria respectively.
Finally, cities are listed such as Paris, London, Rome. Here, too, no colon is used since these are elements within the whole of France, England, and Italy respectively.
How to Make Use of Bullet Points:
A capital letter usually denotes the start of a sentence. However, in bullet point lists, the beginning of a point is also marked by a space and the item marker (whether a bullet, a number, or a letter). Otherwise, the reader will not know where to stop reading.
Thus, while bullets are meant to be concise and to the point, that means they can't include any detail or explanation. Therefore, unless the list contains only one item which starts with a capital letter, you should capitalize every second word in a bulleted list.
This is different from numbered lists, which can include full sentences as well as detailed explanations. Thus, for numbered lists, it is acceptable not to capitalize after every other word.
The capitalization and punctuation for each bulleted item are determined by the sentence structure. If the bulleted text is a whole sentence, uppercase the initial letter of the first word and use a period to conclude the paragraph (see "Lists, Part 5: Bulleted Lists" in the APA Style Blog). This is an example of a sentence. It contains a single bulleted item that is not a complete sentence.
When writing multi-paragraph lists, separate these paragraphs with commas, periods, or both. Don't omit the final paragraph break; otherwise, you'll have a list that's not properly formatted as such. This is an example of a bulleted list. It consists of two sentences separated by a full stop.
Citations within your list items should be in lowercase without any punctuation unless they are proper names or titles. This is an example of a correctly cited list item. Note the absence of quotation marks around the citation.
List numbers should always appear after the list item they refer to. This is an example of a list numbered 1-3. Items 4 and 5 contain summary bullets that function as placeholders until further notice. They can be removed if desired but being aware of their presence is useful if you need to rearrange the order of items on the list.
Summary bullets can only be used at the end of a list item. They cannot be inserted in the middle of a sentence.
Each bulleted item's capitalization and punctuation is determined by whether the elements constitute sentences or sentence portions. If the bulleted text is a full sentence, capitalize the first letter of the first word and use a period to end the paragraph. Otherwise, leave lowercase letters, periods, and parentheses as they are.
Here are some examples:
Bullet 1. This is a sentence. 2. This is another sentence. 3. And this is the last one.
Here are some exercises: Try writing out some of these lists using proper sentence structure!
List items can be split up into sub-lists with between three and twenty items per sub-list. The following are examples of valid sub-lists:
Split up lists allow for more flexibility in your writing while still being clear and concise.
Some writers may choose to write out entire chapters in a list style format for better reading flow and less distraction. These are often called "scene breaks" because they divide up the story into distinct scenes.