Bullet Point Reminders and Greek Delights

I've been away from this blog while I traveled Greece for five weeks. As a business-writing way to tell you about my trip and Greece, here are seven reminders about bullet points with my travel details as examples. 

Reminder 1: Have a blend of paragraphs and bullets. Bullets make sense for lists of items, but paragraphs convey introductory material and ideas well. My paragraph below helps to ground you in my topic. Although I could have bulleted the items it contains, the paragraph creates a more cohesive picture. 

    Although I had planned each day of our five-week vacation, Greece surprised me at every turn. I hadn't anticipated the bright blue skies and the seas rolling in shades of turquoise, blue, and bluer at every beach. I hadn't recognized that virtually every restaurant would be a Greek restaurant (surprise!) with wonderful olives, cheeses, and yogurt. Archeological ruins and sites of huge historical significance emerge everywhere across Greece, from the remote countryside to city streets. The museums display incredible treasures from ancient times, and castles are as common in Greece as Starbucks are at home. Every day brought new delights. 

 

Reminder 2: Keep lists of bullet points short, no more than about seven points. Notice how the list below overwhelms you with its length. 

Places I visited:

–Athens

–Hydra

–Milos

–Santorini

–Crete

–Delphi

–Kalavryta

–Olympia

–Pylos

–Kardamyli

–Monemvasia

–Napflio

–Athens (again)

That list has no shape, so you need to think about how the places may be related. (In fact, I listed places in the order I visited them, but that means nothing to most readers.) Breaking content into categories makes it more meaningful, as I have done here:

Places I visited: 

–Capital: Athens 

–Islands: Crete, Santorini, Milos, and Hydra

–Cities famous for their ruins: Delphi and Olympia 

–Towns of the Peloponnese Peninsula: 

Kalavryta

Pylos

Kardamyli

Monemvasia

Napflio

  

Reminder 3: Introduce each list of bullet points with a heading or stem sentence. The list below, without an introduction, gradually makes sense, but readers need to create relationships between the items. 

  • Temple of Apollo, the famous site of the oracle at Delphi
  • Sanctuary of Olympia, where the Olympics began around 776 B.C., in Olympia
  • Parthenon, symbol of ancient Greek democracy, in Athens
  • Akrotiri, the Minoan archeological site on the island of Santorini
  • Palace of Knossos, the Minoan site on the island of Crete
  • Palace of Nestor, a Mycenaean-era site, in southwest mainland Greece
  • Ancient Messene, an entire city being excavated in southwest mainland Greece
  • Mystras, a Byzantine site mostly of churches, near Sparta 

This heading would help readers understand that list instantly:

Ancient Sites We Visited, Dating to the Dawn of Recorded History

 

Reminder 4: Structure bullet points consistently. Each of the bullets above is rendered by site, brief description, and location. Without that consistent format, readers would struggle to understand, as in this mishmash:

  • The famous site of the oracle at Delphi, the Temple of Apollo
  • In Olympia, Sanctuary of Olympia, where the Olympics began around 776 B.C.
  • In Athens, Parthenon, symbol of ancient Greek democracy
  • Akrotiri, the Minoan archeological site on the island of Santorini
  • On the island of Crete, Palace of Knossos, the Minoan site

Please note: The above list is a bad example. 

 

Reminder 5: Avoid repetitive wording. Consistent doesn't mean monotonous. This example illustrates boring bullet point repetition with we, we, we:

  • We loved eating fresh vegetables and Greek salads daily. 
  • We enjoyed the complimentary "surprise" desserts served in restaurants. 
  • We liked the warm, summery temperatures, even in September and October.
  • We were in awe of the sheer number and frequency of archaeological ruins. 
  • We were surprised by the beautiful, majestic scenery on Crete and the Peloponnese Peninsula. 
  • We enjoyed listening to wildly expressive conversations that ended with hugs and smiles.

Here's a tighter, more interesting list:

Greek Delights and Surprises

  • Daily fresh vegetables and Greek salads  
  • Complimentary "surprise" desserts served in restaurants
  • Warm, summery temperatures in September and October
  • Archaeological ruins around every corner
  • Beautiful, majestic scenery on Crete and the Peloponnese Peninsula
  • Wildly expressive conversations ending with hugs and smiles

(See another example of crisp, compelling bullet points.)

 

Reminder 6. Punctuate bullets consistently. For instance, if you use periods, use periods for all items in the list. However, you may punctuate different lists differently. Notice the difference between the two lists above. (Learn more about punctuating bullet points.)

 

Reminder 7. Don't be a slave to bullet points. If graphs, tables, or other visual aids tell your story better than a list, use them. Below are three of my photos that remind me of Greece's food, ancient architecture, and beauty. Enjoy! 

Lynn

Salad

 

 

Delphi

  Santorini

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. You are amazing! I love this so much!

    About two years ago, I stumbled across your Business Writing newsletter. I devour them, word for word. Fortunately, I’ve learned lots of wonderful skills from you. Unfortunately, I still have lots to learn and feel inadequate with every sentence I type.

    Thank you for a well-written, interesting newsletter. And, thank you for incorporating tidbits of your recent travels. Now I want to visit Greece, too.

    Oh, Honey, I have an idea for our next trip . . .

  2. Hi Martha, Sheena, Chiara, and Ellen,

    Thanks for your positive feedback! I know I was indulging myself in talking about my trip, so I am especially glad you enjoyed the post.

    Ellen, your comments are clear, concise, and lively. There’s no need to continue feeling inadequate about your writing. And I encourage your desire to visit Greece. If you have any questions about traveling there, let me know.

    Lynn

  3. Now, I too, want to visit Greece! Thank you for your newsletter, it’s informative, clear and easy to understand. The photos are absolutely amazing!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here