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The following is from some software documentation we are writing:

NOTE: Refreshing a report may be necessary or helpful when:

  1. you believe the data in the report has changed since it was last executed
  2. you'd like to return the report to its initial state/condition

My question is this. Should 'you' in the first bullet item and 'you'd' in the second bullet item be capitalized?

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3 Answers 3

My opinion is that there are two possible cases.

  1. Bullets may be used as part of a sentence or paragraph, in which case regular capitalization and grammar rules apples.
  2. Bullets may be used as a sort of Graphic Communication (eg. in a Presentation) - in which case anything goes

For example, under case one, I might list

  • an apple,
  • a banana, and
  • a grapefruit.

In this case, I am interjecting bullets into my sentence, but the sentence should remain readable. This becomes more useful with complex lists, which may refer to

  • all fruit, except that which is

    • red,
    • green, or
    • yellow,

      • including, but not limited to
        • apples,
        • pears, and
        • bananas;
  • vegetables;
  • meat; and
  • legumes, unless
    • it is the 30th of the month.

In this case, the above list is in fact a grammatical sentence, but the bulleting makes it easier to read, and as such the capitalization should maintain it's regular sentence-based form.

However, if I want to do something graphical in a document, or for a presentation, I say anything goes which effectively communicates. I might do this:

  • Fruits
    • NO: Red, Green, Yellow
      • INCL. NO: Apples, Bananas, Grapefruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Legumes (Except on the 30th of the Month)
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It is a matter of style. Here are two options:


NOTE: Refreshing a report may be necessary or helpful when:

  1. You believe the data in the report has changed since it was last executed
  2. You'd like to return the report to its initial state/condition

NOTE: Refreshing a report may be necessary or helpful when:

  1. you believe the data in the report has changed since it was last executed;
  2. you'd like to return the report to its initial state/condition.

Create whatever rules you want for your software documentation and stick to them. As with all stylistic matters, consistency is key.

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2  
Do you think the second style above comply with Wikipedia's Manual of Style, i.e. "when the elements are complete sentences, they are formatted using sentence case and a final period.", on this? Specifically, would it be better -- or not -- to have 1. You ... and 2. You'd ...? –  Computist Jul 15 '11 at 21:40

Bullet point items should be capitalised if the item in question is a full sentence. Likewise, in that case they should also have a full stop.

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1  
I agree, but citation needed. –  Dan Dascalescu Apr 24 '13 at 9:06
1  
it's style. there are no definitive "correct" references to cite. –  sgroves Aug 13 at 18:10

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