I have a grammar query about the use of bullet points.

I am aware that, technically, bullet points should be used where there is a list, i.e. more than one item to be bulleted.

However, I work often with documents which are laid out with several subtitles and bullet-pointed lists underneath and often I have a situation where one or more subtitles only has one item underneath it. Technically, this one item should not be bullet-pointed.. however, from a style/appearance point of view, the document looks messy when bullet points are not applied consistently throughout.

An example:

Leeds Staff

  • Alison

  • Jonathan

  • Sarah
Manchester Staff


London Staff

  • Helen

  • Kate

  • Nick
In this circumstance, is it acceptable to use a bullet point for a single item? In terms of document presentation, does the need for consistency in layout outweigh the strict interpretation of the grammar rule?
I agree with your logic - it looks completely non-parallel to have Lucy without the bullet. An important part of knowing the rules of style is knowing when to break them.

However, are bullets strictly necessary under each heading? What about this?

  • Leed Staff: Alison, Jonathan, Sarah

  • Manchester Staff: Lucy

  • Lond Staff: Helen, Kate, Nick
1 2
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Thanks for your response - glad to see that you agree with me! lol

I rather feel the management here are responding in a knee-jerk fashion based solely on the advice of one person who has effectively said "grammar rules are sacrosant and can under no circumstances be broken; you cannot bullet point a single item"!

I like your suggestion but my example was probably not the best - the items we are bullet pointing in this documents are actually complete sentences so making the subtitles the bulleted points with the listed items following, as in your suggestion, is sadly not practicable.

A better example:


  • Product sales

  • Managing a team of 18 sales people

  • Attending meetings on sales strategy

Increase in turnover of 16% over 5 years

Anyone else have any thoughts on this issue? My feeling is that, in this case, the need for consistency in the layout of the document is the more relevant concern.
Boy, I hope you mean inventory turns and not people turnover - otherwise an increase is hardly an achievement!

You may want to point out that bullets, etc., are refelctions of STYLE, not GRAMMAR. And style has a hierarchy. Style rule (which are not rules, really, but guidelines) need to be adjusted to make sure the higher-order objectives are met. Making it the most readable is at the top of the hierarchy, and being consistent within the same page/same document comes in just under it.
What I see most often is a sub-bullet that explains the parent bullet. They I usually suggest a dash instead of a sub bullet because an explanation is not a list.
In the earlier example, this is what I would do:

  • Product sales
  • Managing a team of 18 sales people
  • Attending meetings on sales strategy
  • 16% turnover increase
  • 5 years
Achievements - 16% turnover increase in 5 years
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
I'd list everyone as e.g. London Staff: Helen, Kate, and Nick, that way Lucy's name is a non-issue

If I have a single point, I indent it to make the bullets but do not give it a bullet point because bullet points are, strictly speaking, for lists.

While the first answer became impractical because of the example given, they are correct, you must know when to break the rules. It is practical for your use to keep the bullet even though you do not technically have a list. I'm certain no one will notice besides you but if you leave out the bullet everyone will notice and probably complain. Emotion: smile

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

Maybe you don't realize it, but you are answering a question that was asked more than 13 years ago.

Why not answer questions that are more recent? That way there's a better chance that the person who asked the question is still participating on our forum and can benefit from your answer.


Show more