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In school, we were taught to end each list item with a semicolon. But I have never actually seen this. Can somebody please confirm this? Should we end each list item with anything at all?

I've seen people use periods after each list item, colons, and even commas. But I've never seen a semicolon at the end of each item — and even if I have, it would be that rare that I've forgotten.

Example:

  • item;
  • item;
  • item;
  • item
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1  
Related: How to write a bulleted list?, Periods for bullet point items, Use of capitals and full stops in bullet points. The top answers to the first and the last actually answer your question. –  RegDwigнt Jul 23 '12 at 7:27
2  
Thank you @RegDwightАΑA - I knew I should've asked my parents to change my school when I had the chance. –  Arrow Jul 23 '12 at 7:44

5 Answers 5

In a numbered vertical list that completes a sentence begun in an introductory element and that consist of phrases or sentences with internal punctuation, semicolon may be used between the items, and a period should follow the final item. [...] If bullets were used instead of numbers ... the punctuation remain the same. — Chicago Manual of Style, Section 6.125

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These days it's a matter of style. In my news room, if the list comprises items that are sentence fragments, each item requires a semicolon except the last one, which is terminated with a full stop. If the items are full sentences, each is treated as such - leading capital and trailing full stop.

This is a little old-style, and some style guides do away with semicolons in sentence-fragment lists.

In drafting our newspaper's style guide, I chose a list style that suited the tone of the content we produce. The main thing is to be consistent.

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+1 for consistency. Switching usages is the easiest way to make something look like a mistake and take attention away from a reader –  ngmiceli Jul 23 '12 at 20:59

In my experience, commas are the punctuation that I have observed, if any, and I have never seen any usage of semi-colon, not that I remember.

Here, I'll explain my observed usage of commas, in hope it helps. Commas mostly correspond to its use in a normal sentence. Bullets merely break the sentence into several distinct lines. E.g.

The things that we use most commonly are:
- bats,
- balls, and
- wickets.

Here, the list can be written as a single sentence.

The things that we use most commonly are: bats, balls, and wickets.

Thus, logically we can extend commas to semi-colons. But it might be more preferable in lists with long phrases as bullets. E.g.

I have visited many and many places throughout the world:
    - Sweden, Norway and Iceland in the Europe;
    - every single country of the Americas; 
    - also, China, Vietnam, Thailand and some more neighbouring countries in the far east.
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As others have said, it's a matter of stylistic choice. The semicolon style is very formal.

Personally, if I was using the semicolon style, I'd go all the way and put an italicised "and" after the penultimate item and a period after the last item, like this:

The items on today's agenda are:

  • item 1;
  • item 2; and
  • item 3.

The idea behind this style is that if you removed the bullets and wrote it all on one line, the sentence would still be grammatically and orthographically correct.

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I’ve definitely seen, and used, this style. However, if the list items are themselves full sentences, I would use fullstops (periods) at the end of each line:

  • Sentence 1.
  • Sentence 2.
  • Sentence 3.
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