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Writing Clear Numbered Lists and Bulleted Lists in Business Writing

September 25, 2019 8:44 , by Writing Trainers - | No one following this article yet.

Numbered lists and bulleted lists in business writing help readers see and understand the list items easily. When lists are embedded in paragraphs, the items are jumbled together in a mass of words.

However, business writing that does not have a recognizable set of items is clearer when the writer keeps the business writing in paragraphs. This explanation will help you decide when to put your business wrting into bulleted or numbered lists and when to keep it in paragraphs. Follow these three steps:

  1. Name the sections of your business writing.
  2. Decide whether each section contains items that pertain to that key term or key phrase name.
  3. If the section key term or key phrase name does not require items, don’t use a list for the section.

1. Name the sections of your business writing.

Each section of your business writing explains a topic that is significantly different from the topics in the other sections. Give each section a name. The name will be a key term or key phrase you will use consistently throughout the rest of the document to refer to the topic in the section. Usually use the key term or key phrase in the heading for the section and early in the body of the section. Don’t use an alternate term or phrase for these key names.

2. Decide whether your business writing contains items that pertain to that key term or key phrase name.

Some key terms or key phrases require items. Examples are “conclusions,” “recommendations,” “locations,” “topics,” “items,” and so on. When you use the plural of these key terms, the reader will expect to read a list of whatever the name is in your business writing. If you have a key term or key phrase for a section that requires a list of items, create a numbered or bulleted list. Use a numbered list for items that must be in a specific order, such as “steps” and “timeline of events.” Use a bulleted list for items that do not have to be in a specific order.

3. If the key term or key phrase name does not require items, don’t use a list for the section.

If the key term or key phrase name does not require items, don’t create a list for the section; leave the text in paragraph form. The three numbered sections in this explanation are in an numbered list because they are steps. Within the sections, however, the text is in paragraphs. The key phrase names for the sections don’t require lists of items.

In general, assume you will not put your business writing into a list format. Create a list only when the key term or key phrase name suggests you need a list and the text contains items that fit with the key term or key phrase name.

Examples

This text contains two sections. One section contains a list. The other should be a narration.

We observed Simon in the school setting on March 13. We noticed aggressive behavior in the classroom and lunch room. We believe we can identify the reason he is becoming aggressive in his relationships based on what we have seen. When we understand the reason, we will come to a solution that will eliminate the problem the parents have seen at home.

There are factors we believe are important to note about such behavior in children. Some of this type of behavior is normal for a 6-year-old. Arrival of a new baby in the home will contribute to acting out. When a child is an only child and has been at home with only the mother, the separation can result in acting out as a way to be sent home. Family difficulties such as the impending divorce may also result in aggressive behavior.

Some writers mistakenly attempt to use lists for all text. The result would be a report like this:

  • We observed Simon in the school setting on March 13.
  • We noticed aggressive behavior in the classroom and lunch room.
  • We believe we can identify the reason he is becoming aggressive in his relationships based on what we have seen.
  • When we understand the reason, we will come to a solution that will eliminate the problem the parents have seen at home.
  • There are factors we believe are important to note about such behavior in children.
  • Some of this type of behavior is normal for a 6-year-old.
  • Arrival of a new baby in the home will contribute to acting out.
  • When a child is an only child and has been at home with only the mother, the separation can result in acting out as a way to be sent home.
  • Family difficulties such as the impending divorce may also result in aggressive behavior.

Putting all of the sentences into a list makes the text more difficult to read and understand.

The first paragraph has no key word describing the sentences, such as “factors.” It must remain as a paragraph. It does contain “things” or “facts,” but those names are too general to require lists and don’t lend themselves to having an introduction specifying a number of items. The writer should not have forced them into a list.

The second paragraph is a list. The key word name for the list in the second paragraph is “factors.” The entire name is “factors we believe are important to note about such behavior in children.” The writer realizes the text contains four items that are factors. More specifically for this list, the items are “factors we believe are important to note about such behavior in children.” As a result, the writer must write the second paragraph in a list.

One acceptable form for the report follows:

We observed Simon in the school setting on March 13. We noticed aggressive behavior in the classroom and lunch room. We believe we can identify the reason he is becoming aggressive in his relationships based on what we have seen. When we understand the reason, we will come to a solution that will eliminate the problem the parents have seen at home.

We believe the following four factors are important to realize about such behavior in children:

  • Some of this type of behavior is normal for a 6-year-old.
  • Arrival of a new baby in the home will contribute to acting out.
  • When a child is an only child and has been at home with only the mother, the separation can result in acting out as a way to be sent home.
  • Family difficulties such as the impending divorce may also result in aggressive behavior.

Creating Lists within the Sections

Follow the same guidelines to decide when to create lists for parts of your explanations and when to write narratives for other parts. You may have a section of your document that is in narrative form. As you write the paragraphs, if you see two or more items that pertain to a key word or key phrase, break out the items into a bulleted or numbered list. Introduce the list using the key word or key phrase name and a number. Then list the items.

This is an example of text in paragraph form that has a list in it:

The Internal Conveyances Department performs important plant tasks each day. The department moves employees within the Rudolph Plant complex.  The vans take employees from the gate to their work areas.  Another function of the vans is to transport employees to storage areas to pick up supplies.  Employees are also taken to areas such as the cafeteria and training rooms.  In addition, Internal Conveyances Department delivers internal packages, tools, and inter-office mail.  The Internal Conveyances Department has a staff of seven people. The vans receive regular maintenance, and the company replaces them every two years. Replaced vans are available for employees to purchase at a greatly discounted price.

To find out if this section is a list, follow this procedure:

  1. Identify a potential key word or phrase name for the list that you see in the text or that you decide is a candidate. In this case, it could be “tasks,” a word that appears in the first line.
  2. Look at the sentences to see whether they are all tasks. If so, create a bulleted or numbered list containing all the sentences as list items.
  3. If none of the sentences are tasks, consider another key word or key phrase name. If you find no suitable key word or key phrase name, don’t create a list.
  4. If some sentences are tasks but some are not, create a list within the narration. The list items will all fit the criteria for being tasks.

Don’t Make a List of All Text

This is an example of a revision of the text that is not correct. The list includes items that are not tasks:

  • The Internal Conveyances Department moves employees within the Rudolph Plant complex.
  • The vans take employees from the gate to their work areas.
  • Another function of the vans is to transport employees to storage areas to pick up supplies.
  • Employees are also taken to areas such as the cafeteria and training rooms.
  • In addition, the Internal Conveyances Department delivers internal packages, tools, and inter-office mail.
  • The Internal Conveyances Department has a staff of seven people.
  • The vans receive regular maintenance, and the company replaces them every two years.
  • Replaced vans are available for employees to purchase at a greatly discounted price.

Article Source: https://writingtrainers.com/how-to-write-clear-numbered-and-bulleted-lists/

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