UCAR Style Guide

Do not use a colon to introduce a bulleted (or numbered) list if it separates an item in the introductory sentence from its complement. "The ground rules are:" is wrong. You could say, "The ground rules are" or "The ground rules are as follows:" or "The ground rules follow."

If the list is introduced by a sentence that gets completed by the list, use commas (or semicolons) within the list, and DO end with a period or other appropriate ending punctuation.

The style of bulleted lists depends to some extent on the style of the document.  In general, Sentences are given normal punctuation. Only items that are complete sentences should begin with a capital letter. Full paragraphs may wrap to the left margin; words, phrases, and sentences should be block indented unless space is a problem.

Bulleted lists may be set off from the surrounding text by additional space above and below the list. Line spacing between each bulleted item depends on the style of the document.


Phrases or mixed phrases and sentences:

  • a few words that don't need punctuation
  • a few more words
  • list could end here without using any punctuation
  • mixes of phrases and sentences. Treat all as sentences, with terminal punctuation, but do not use an initial capital for an incomplete sentence fragment. Only the initial phrase may be a fragment; all that follow must be complete sentences.

Full sentences:

  • Start full sentences with an initial capital for the first word.
  • If your first item is in full-sentence style, the rest of the list should follow suit.

List of phrases that together could be read as a complete sentence: (therefore the list requires sentence-style punctuation, in this case, commas, and a period at the end.)

  • We need to examine
    • what happens to this issue,
    • where it happens, and
    • when it happens.

See also "lists, numbered or lettered."