English
3880

Writing for Business and Industry

Summer
2014

 

Lists

Other links

From the document design readings

 

Overview

A major reason to use lists rather than placing all the information into a paragraph is that the list helps the reader find information easier and also improves later recall of the information on the list. The white space that surrounds the list also helps give the page a less dense appearance.

Lists break information out of a paragraph and make it easier to find and process. Whenever you are discussing related information, consider presenting it in a list. One of the hardest changes for a student in moving from academic writing with its focus on long paragraphs to business or technical writing is learning to use lists. In your previous class work, you haven't been required to write with lists and may have even been penalized if you did. Now, you are expected to write much of your material in a list format.

When you use a bullet list, always let the word processor insert the bullets for you. Never use dashes or asterisks; they look very unprofessional.

Integrating lists into a document

When using lists remember to:

Types of Lists

Lists come in four different forms: ordered, unordered, simple, and definition.

The two main types of lists: bullet lists and numbered lists. If the information has a sequence, use a numbered list. If the order doesn't matter, use a bullet list. A third type of list is a simple list which has no element flagging the list items. Only use a simple list for short lists with few words in each list item. If the reader might get confused, use a bullet list rather than a simple list.

Bullet list

Use a bullet list for unordered items. Pick a real bullet character; don't use a hyphen or an asterisk as a bullet.

If there are multiple levels of bullet lists, use a different style of bullet for each level.

Numbered List

  1. steps of a procedure
  2. parts of a mechanism
  3. steps or events in a sequence

Simple List

materials and equipment for a procedure
parts of a mechanism
steps or events in a sequence

Definition List

The definition list provides a term and its definition. The term usually is visually separated from the definition to make it easy to skim the list. The definition text should all line up. In Word, use Format-paragraph-special and hanging indent to perform this formatting.

A definition list normally looks like this:

skunk A small black and white mammal. Skunks are members of the Mephitidae family. The name Mephitidae is a derivative of the Latin word for "bad smell." Until recently, skunks had been classified as a sub-family of the Mustelidae family. In 1997, Jerry Dragoo, with the help of Rodney Honeycutt, proved skunks were genetically very different from the other members of the Mustelidae family and belong in a distinct family.
lion A large African mammal that eats big critters. The lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the family Felidae and one of four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. The lion is the second largest feline species, after the tiger. The male lion, easily recognized by his mane, weighs between 150–250 kg (330–500 lb). Females range 120–150 kg (260–330 lb).

 

Some list samples that combine types

You can combine list styles. Each level should be parallel with all elements at that level.

This is a sample of one list nested in another.
 
 

 

 

The ordered and unordered list can also be combined. This one shows an unordered list with a numbered list under one of the bullets.

Example of how lists helps

These two sets of text have identical text. The only difference is that the second one is broken into a list format. The use of the lists visually splits up the material and lets the reader quickly skim over the items for refinding information.

Paragraph format

The Essentials of Sociology textbook by Linda L. Lindsey and Stephen Beach covered a massive amount of information needed for the perfect textbook. The readability had adequate information. It provided the reader with detailed outlines before each chapter. The visuals were easier to read, and they consisted of color coded coloring, and basic chart set ups. End of chapter reviews consisted of 20 statements that highlighted most of the things through the chapters. End of the chapter terminology was placed with in the text, end of chapters, and back of the book. The structure of paragraphs provided applicable amount of white space and categorized topics above subtopics to make it easier to read.

However, the Social Web an Introduction to Sociology by John A. Perry and Erna K. Perry, provided great information about the introduction to sociology, but they had lack of organization. The readability was presentable overall, but had some terms that were un identified. Visuals were vague and had black and gray backgrounds. They had no end of chapter summary, and terms were provided through the text making it easier on the reader. Paragraph structure was not organized and had no subtopics for information presented.

With lists

The Essentials of Sociology textbook by Linda L. Lindsey and Stephen Beach covered a massive amount of information needed for the perfect textbook.

However, the Social Web an Introduction to Sociology by John A. Perry and Erna K. Perry, provided great information about the introduction to sociology, but they had lack of organization.

 


 
 

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