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How do you mark a bulleted list with a common stem sentence? For example:

Do you capitalize each item and use a colon?

This Summer we should:

  • Go to the beach.
  • Eat a sandwich.
  • Visit the library.

Do you use ellipsis?

This Summer we should...

  • ...go to the beach.
  • ...eat a sandwich.
  • ...visit the library.

I feel like I've seen it both ways, I don't know if there's a convention or not. Is it possibly a regional thing?

Edit: The possible duplicate, which funnily enough is marked as a duplicate itself, doesn't talk about ellipsis. Am I just making that part up?

Edit 2: The second possible duplicate does not address ellipses either

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    Welcome to EL&U. There is no single right answer to questions such as this; it is largely a matter of style. Adhere to the discipline of your editor, publication, or organization, or in the absence of a house style, adopt a style manual appropriate to your audience and tastes and be consistent in its application.
    – choster
    Jul 1, 2019 at 15:06
  • 2
    Choster speaks truth but personally I recommend dropping the colon, lopping the periods and forgoing the ellipses
    – Unrelated
    Jul 1, 2019 at 18:00

1 Answer 1

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I can offer office policy on this, no better authority. (Full disclosure, I wrote the office policy myself.)

There are two choices. The basic difference is whether you want the list to be one long sentence, or whether you want each item in the list to be one or more sentences. But you must use complete sentences. And a sentence must not straddle only some of the list. A sentence must either be confined to a single list item or be the entire list.

Also, usually, a paragraph ends at the end of the list.

The first choice is to introduce with a full sentence ending with a period, then make each item in the list a full sentence ending with a period.

I like fruit.

  • Apple is a kind of fruit.
  • Banana is another kind of fruit.
  • Cherry is a red kind of fruit.
  • Date is a kind of fruit.

The second choice is to introduce with an introductory phrase and a colon. Then, each item in the list is expected to be fragment. The items each start with a capital letter. You put in commas after all but the last. The last gets a period. The second last gets a comma and the word and.

Here are some types of fruit:

  • Apples,
  • Bananas,
  • Cherries, and
  • Dates.

If you find yourself putting in explanatory sentences in a list item, then you want the first choice.

If you are using a lot of bullet lists, especially if they begin to get very long, you should consider using tables instead.

The reason a sentence cannot straddle only part of a list is because it becomes very confusing as to whether the list items are divided by the part the sentence straddles or by the bullets.

Here are some kinds of fruit:

  • Apples,
  • Bananas,
  • Cherries are my favorite. And,
  • Dates.

You see how confusing that is. Does this list indicate that apples, bananas, and cherries are my favorite? Or just cherries?

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  • None of this covers the branching sentence structure that the OP has in mind. Note that the OP assumes that such a structure is permissible, and that the only question is what punctuation should be used in it. Do you want to say that the OP's assumption is wrong and that bulleted lists with this structure are altogether impermissible? If so, it would need to be explained what makes them impermissible.
    – jsw29
    Jul 2, 2019 at 22:44
  • @jsw29 The OP mentions no branching.
    – puppetsock
    Jul 3, 2019 at 13:19

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