I am reviewing a doctoral thesis/dissertation where the author has a tendency to make statements where several different alternatives are given:

... These processes may occur in two different ways: either ... or ...

Then goes on to explain the two different alternatives within the same extensively long paragraph:

*... (1) [several long sentences going into detail]. (2) [some more fancy technical details]

I couldn't help but to react to it; it looks somehow wrong to my eyes but I can't really put it into words. I would say that you either make a list of the alternatives and explain using "first", "second" etc OR dedicate details about them with subheadings (if the explanation is very long). To clarify, my issue isn't the use of numerals in parentheses, but that itemization is done in running text rather than an explicit list.

I skimmed through the Elements of Style for numbered lists in running text, but didn't come up with something. Neither did a brief Google search reveal any insights. Maybe I am searching for the wrong keywords...

My question is, such numbered lists in running text something frowned upon? Is there a generally accepted way to write in these situations? And finally does it differ between academic writing and English in general?

closed as primarily opinion-based by KarlG, curiousdannii, Skooba, Scott, David Feb 9 '18 at 13:37

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  • This is a matter of style rather than language per se, but the answer lies in the stylesheet of a journal or professional association in your field. My impression is the the humanities go for running text and the social and natural sciences for ordered lists, but the main thing is clarity. – KarlG Feb 7 '18 at 12:40
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    As a matter of style, some writers make the reader work hard to decipher the various threads of thought and concepts being discussed. In the days of block metal printing it was necessary, for economy, to fill every bit of the page with type. Nowadays there is no excuse for not using bullet points, numbered sections and spacing text on the page in order to clarify to the reader the lists of items and steps of argument which are to be followed. – Nigel J Feb 7 '18 at 14:31

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