When you make a trip to the grocery store, do you write an essay about what you want to buy? Hopefully not, because most sane people make a list. Lists make dense information easy to understand at a glance. Instead of searching through wordy sentence after wordy sentence, you can glance at your list and realize you still have to buy toilet paper and frozen peas.

Lists can take on many different forms depending on the content and the formatting. The most common type of list is the embedded list. An embedded list can be a series of things separated by commas, or commas and numbers.

I need to buy peas, carrots, corn, and cabbage.


I need to buy four things at the store: 1) peas, 2) carrots, 3) corn, and 4) cabbage.

Lists do not always have to be embedded in the text. Items should be set apart from the main text and can, but do not have to be, bulleted or numbered. When introducing a list, always use a complete sentence before the colon. List items should be capitalized if bulleted or numbered, if items are not bulleted or numbered, they should not be capitalized. Punctuation should not be used at the end of a list item.

Action items are as follows:

  • Buy groceries
  • Drive home
  • Eat

If you use an introductory clause followed by phrases that complete the sentence, do not place a colon after the introductory clause. The phrases in the list should not be capitalized and should all be followed with a semi-colon except the last term, which should be followed with a period.

The wildlife report concluded that

  1. the habitat, mainly grassland, has remained unchanged;
  2. a monitoring plan should be put in place;
  3. the native grasses have recovered well.