Best practices for writing with lists

Lists organize information so that readers can scan content faster.

When you include lists in your content, consider these best practices:

  • Introduce lists with a complete lead-in sentence.
  • Lists must have more than one item.
  • Lists can only have two levels.

    • The second level is called a sublist.
    • Sublists must have more than one item.
  • Capitalize the first letter of every list item.
  • If the list items are complete sentences, include end punctuation.
  • If the list items are characters, words, or phrases, don’t include end punctuation.
  • Use parallel sentence construction in list items. For example, start all lists items with verbs, or end all list items with punctuation.
  • Avoid including links that move users away from a list of tasks.
  • If you must include a link, don’t hyperlink the entire list item unless it’s supertask information or a prerequisite.
  • Use lists in tables sparingly.

Use these best practices to make docs accessible for all audiences. For more guidance on making docs more accessible using lists, see Write docs for everyone.

Choose the best list

Choose one of three lists based on your content:

Type of list When to use More information
Bulleted list Use when the list item order isn’t important, such as a list of options. See Bulleted lists.
Numbered list Use when the order of the list items is important or the user is following sequential steps, such as a task. See Numbered lists.
Definition list Use for a list of descriptions, definitions, associations, or explanations, such as a glossary or a set of terms. See Definition lists.
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