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Take the following example text:

... Such causes will generally fall under one of:

  1. Diagnostic ...
  2. Avoidance of ...; and
  3. Relief of ...

The legitimacy of all causes other than 1 is doubtful.

The thing I don't like about this is that just putting undecorated numerals could in some contexts create confusion. (While the above is not the best example, one could conceivably think that "1" was meant to mean a single cause.)

I have at times done this:

The legitimacy of all causes other than #1 is doubtful.

But this somehow feels messy.

The legitimacy of all causes other than (1) is doubtful.

Seems a bit messy since parenthetical text is normally not essential to meaning.

The legitimacy of all causes other than 1. is doubtful.

Seems messy among other things because it almost looks like the "1." is meant to set off a list item at this point in the text. That's also somewhat true for "(1)".

Is there any well-defined English rule for referencing list items by numeral, or is there any widely accepted style guidance on this matter?

  • 1
    There is a multitude of styles – rather than rules. Googling 'numbering reference lists' brings up a lot of sites. – Livrecache Feb 6 '18 at 1:26
  • Yes and one reason Word is so popular is that it offers to handle numerical lists for you… – Robbie Goodwin Feb 6 '18 at 1:32
  • @Livrecache Hm, the articles I get for that search look to be about making lists of citations to other texts as opposed to referencing of list items in the text at hand. – Kevin Feb 6 '18 at 1:35
  • @RobbieGoodwin I know it'll make them. Haven't seen it reference them, although admittedly I use a pretty old version. – Kevin Feb 6 '18 at 1:38
  • 2
    Uh… so you choose or define a style like 1) and reference it as 1), don't you? Sorry but it's purely a question of style, hardly even about typography and certainly not English. If you're sharing your work with colleagues, agree a style with them. If you're not, who's going to be confused? – Robbie Goodwin Feb 6 '18 at 1:41

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