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I'd like to know what is the best/correct form between the following example lists. I use such lists in technical documents. My two concerns are whether I should capitalize each list item (a) and about the usage of punctuation at the end of every list item (b).

The examples follow.

a1. no capitalization

We need to:
- resolve dependencies
- manage problems
- build the system
- release

a2. capitalization

We need to:
- Resolve dependencies
- Manage problems
- Build the system
- Release

b1. no punctuation

We need to:
- resolve dependencies
- manage problems
- build the system
- release

b2. full stops

We need to:
- resolve dependencies.
- manage problems.
- build the system.
- release.

b3. semicolons apart last item

We need to:
- resolve dependencies;
- manage problems;
- build the system;
- release

b4. semicolons apart last item and usage of "and"

We need to:
- resolve dependencies;
- manage problems;
- build the system; and
- release
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  • The six options you offer do not by any means cover all of the possible ways to handle the lists themselves—in addition to which they all adopt an introductory form ("We need to:") that I wouldn't use unless forced to do so by a house style sheet. So the question appears to be potentially either too broad or too narrow, as well as to be opinion-based both in its presentation and as to the answers it invites. Lists are a complicated subject, and handling lists well can greatly improve the text in which they appear. But I just don't think that this question will yield practical, helpful answers.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 14, 2015 at 2:43

1 Answer 1

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I'd say you have two options:

  1. Do whatever you want, but be consistent throughout the document(s).
  2. Treat the lists as complete sentences, following appropriate sentence structure.

For example, if I were to treat your example as a sentence, I would write:

We need to resolve dependencies, manage problems, build the system, and release.

And as a list:

We need to

  • resolve dependencies,
  • manage problems,
  • build the system, and
  • release.

The beauty of Option 2 is it takes the guesswork out of any punctuation, and it ensures anyone who wants to quote/reference your document can easily turn your lists back to sentences for their own purposes.

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