Lists are a great way to present complex text in a way that's easy to scan.

Lists work best when they have two to seven items. Each item should be fairly short—the reader should be able to see at least two, and preferably three, list items at a glance. It’s OK to have a couple of short paragraphs in a list item, but don’t exceed that length too often.

Make items in a list parallel. For example, each item should be a noun or a phrase that starts with a verb.

Bulleted lists

Use a bulleted list for things that have something in common but don’t need to appear in a particular order.
The database owner can:

  • Create and delete a database.
  • Add, delete, or modify a document.
  • Add, delete, or modify any information in the database.

Numbered lists

Use a numbered list for sequential items (like a procedure) or prioritized items (like a top 10 list).
To sign on to a database

  1. On the File menu, select Open database.
  2. In Username, enter your name.
  3. In Password, enter your password, and then select OK.

Introductory text

Make sure the purpose of the list is clear. Introduce the list with a heading, a complete sentence, or a fragment that ends with a colon.

If you introduce a list with a heading, don’t use explanatory text after the heading. Also, don’t use a colon or period after the heading.

Global tip If your content will be localized, avoid lists where an introductory fragment is completed by the list items below it. This can be difficult to translate.


Begin each item in a list with a capital letter unless there's a reason not to (for example, it’s a command that's always lowercase). If necessary, rewrite the list item so that all items begin with capital letters or all items begin with lowercase words.


In bulleted and numbered lists, end each list item with a period if:

  • Any item forms a complete sentence when combined with the list introduction that precedes the colon.
    Exception Don’t use periods if all items have three or fewer words or if the items are UI labels, headings, subheadings, or strings.

  • Any item by itself is a complete sentence.

Don’t use semicolons, commas, or conjunctions (like and or or) at the end of list items.


Often lists are a series of radio buttons or checkboxes inside dialog boxes or settings pages. Unless they’re complete sentences, don’t use punctuation for each item in a list. If punctuation is necessary for clarity, make sure punctuation is used consistently in the list and in other lists within the same section or screen.