Three ways to write a list

Last changed: 13 July 2023

Lists are a good way of structuring content and making enumerations more lucid. What your shopping list or to-do list at work look like is perhaps less important, but if you are writing for other readers than yourself, you need to ensure that structure and punctuation in your list are consistent.

Each list item should be a grammatically correct continuation of the introductory lead-in. What format to use depends on how independent the list items are.

Where each item completes the lead-in phrase, you should:

  • end the lead-in with a colon;
  • end each item with a semicolon;
  • close with a full stop.

A full sentence should introduce lists of short items (like this one) and the list should have the following features:

  • lead-in phrase with colon
  • no initial capitals and no punctuation
  • a full stop at the end.

If the list items consist of one or more complete sentences, introduce the list with a complete sentence and continue as follows:

  • End the lead-in phrase with a colon.
  • Begin each item with a capital letter.
  • End each phrase with a full stop. That way, you can include more than one sentence in a single list item.

Published October 2018.