Using Lists to Improve Your Business Writing

Replacing long, wordy paragraphs with easy-to-read lists can serve to simplify and clarify your business writing. Lists are effective because they communicate information quickly, at a glance. Lists are appropriate whenever three or more related pieces of information are presented. 

Try these five rules for making lists: 

 1.   Introduce a list with a statement that establishes the context and tells readers what the list is about. 

 2.   Make lists easier to read by leaving space between the items, especially if any item is more than one line long. 

 3.   Avoid clutter by using neutral symbols to mark items. Use numbers only to indicate priority (such as steps in instructions). 

 4.   Use end punctuation only when at least one item contains more than one complete sentence. If you use end punctuation for any item, use it for all items. 

 5.   Keep the items in the list parallel. That means all items are presented in the same form. If one item begins with a verb, all the items should begin with verbs. 

Imagine how much more difficult the information above would be to absorb if it were presented in paragraph, rather than list, form!