Stray Bullets

Despite their frequent use, bulleted lists cause significant confusion.

Although style guides differ on formatting, capitalization and punctuation, one rule is universal: To help the reader absorb the information, the items listed should be PARALLEL. All should be structured the same way: if one item starts with a verb, all should start with a verb; if one is a complete sentence,  all should be complete sentences; if one is a sentence fragment, all should be fragments; and so on.

Can you find the “stray bullet” that breaks the parallel construction in the following list?

In the next few months, the Board Directors, Executive Director, and staff of the new AC will be:

• Refine program budgets for transferred programs
• Re-initiating the Action  program
• Continuing the formation of the Operating Committees

Joy Eckel, Freelance Copy Editor
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3 Responses to “Stray Bullets”

  1. ESL-Donna Says:

    Maybe the second one because it has an extra space. This is nervous answer.

  2. joyeckel Says:

    That wasn’t what I had in mind, but good eye! I’m looking for problems with parallelism.

  3. joyeckel Says:

    The first item could be changed to “refining,” not only to work with the introductory fragment but also to match the structure of the other items in the list.
    A better option would be ending the introductory fragment with “will” and changing the other two items to verbs (re-initiate, continue), thus avoiding passive voice.

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