9 Ways to Improve Your Bullet Point Lists

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How many people have difficulty writing blog posts? I do. And sometimes, it’s especially difficult when you have a lot of content but no way to put it on paper.

The biggest problem with blogging is this: you can’t spit out information after information. That only encourages people to tune out and leave.

Instead you need to format your blog post, and one of the most effective ways you can do this is with bullet points.

Bullet points are pretty standard in online content.  But using them the right way is important; not every piece of content lends itself to a list.

I’ll cover 9 different ways that you can make bullet points more effective in your blog posts:

  1. Use Correct Formatting
  2. Have Good Design
  3. Separate Main Elements
  4. Have Clarity and Focus
  5. Think in Headlines
  6. Don’t have Hanging Lists
  7. Use them for Introductions (like this one!)
  8. Work from an Outline
  9. Use Them When Ever You Can

1. Use Correct Formatting

The beauty of lists is that they are relatively easy to write. Yet it won’t work if you don’t have proper formatting. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Most lists, like this one, use Bullet formatting. These are great for giving out ideas that are the same level of importance.
  • Numbered lists are usually used when you are creating a series of steps. Another usage is when you are creating a list preceded by a number. (This usually comes up with list articles.)
  • Heading tags occur when you are creating a blog post formatted around a list. In this case, you would usually use the Heading 2 Tag formatting, as Heading 1 tags are only use for titles.
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2. Design Them Right

Bullet points, like many parts of a blog post, have their own rules of design. There are three things to keep in mind when you create lists:

  • Each point needs one main idea. If you have more than one idea per bullet point, it confuses the reader.
  • It’s best to add some supporting information. To keep things simple, you should try to add a sentence or two that explains the bullet point in more detail.
  • There should be a consistent design. This is also known as parallelism. For example, this list has a sentence for each main idea.

3. Have Clear Separation

Each bullet point should have its main idea formatted separate from the rest of the bullet point. This helps make the whole list easier to scan which makes it easier to digest. To do this, you should highlight each main idea and use either Bold or Italic formatting.

4. Keep Clarity and Focus

I mentioned before that each bullet points should consist of main ideas and supporting information. You should ideally only have one level of bullet points. Each bullet point must be either a sub-idea or steps to achieve an idea – otherwise there is a great temptation to meander.

5. Headlines as Bullet Points

Bullet point lists are meant to be quick hits designed to give information easily. They are not meant for long paragraphs. For this reason, you should create your main ideas for each bullet point the same way you would create a headline – short, sweet, and enticing. The best tip I’ve found for creating short headlines is to try to use no more than 6 words. If your main points are parts of a sentence, you should format them so they are distinct.

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6. Don’t Use “Hanging” Lists

Lists are good for giving information. But don’t make the mistake of inserting them without proper context. For each list, you should create a short introduction (about 1-3 sentences) that explains what is the list about why the list is important.

7. Use Lists to Enhance Introductions

This tip is especially useful for list articles (or “listicles”) like this one, though with a bit of tweaking it can be used for any blog post. To do this, you simply copy and paste each of the main points into a list that you feature in the introduction. Here, you don’t need to add supporting text (as the information will be covered later) and you also don’t need extensive formatting. BTW, This is where my recommendation of hanging lists can be ignored.

8. Work from an Outline

My best tip for anybody whose trying to write a blog post is to always work from an outline. Outlines do three things:

  1. They help organize ideas. You can see the whole architecture of your list in an outline whereas it would be harder in a freely written piece of writing.
  2. They help generate ideas. It’s easier to come up with points and sub-points rather than full sentences.
  3. They help checking structure and logic. Again, since you see the whole architecture of the list, an outline can help you spot missing points where you need to expand.

9. Use them As Much as Possible

Despite all the recommendations I’ve given above, if I was given the choice between writing a paragraph and using a list, I’d pick the list all day long. Lists help readers understand information more easily, as the content is much more scan-able and the ideas more obvious. They are also much easier to write, as you are not constrained by normal rules of writing.

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How do you write bullet point lists? Let me know in the comments!

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