This post is a continuation of the topics we were beginning to cover in the previous part “Refining your Copy for the Web”. I started by explaining how to respond to a web audience, but I didn’t get very far into the specifics. That’s what I’d like to devote to this post to. I’m going to explain one of the tactics you can use to communicate a lot of information with as few words as possible. I’m also going to go over the situations where these techniques are the most effective.
When you need to communicate a lot of different information to your readers, you can save space by using lists where you would put paragraphs instead. There are several features of the list that make it ideal for this sort of purpose. I’ll illustrate them with a bullet list, and then explain each part in more detail.
- Complete sentences (and punctuation) are optional
- Transitions are unnecessary
- Information is easy to arrange
Obviously, avoiding complete sentences will save a lot of space, but what you’re saving the most space with the second bullet. The English language relies heavily on transitions between ideas, and easily half of most paragraphs are taken up by establishing the relationship between one idea and the next.
You also can’t overlook the advantage of being able to take technical information and arrange it chunk by chunk. With bullet points, you have a lot of control over the presentation, and you don’t have to be as concerned about your readers missing something through skimming.
Bullet Lists vs. Numbered Lists
If you’re planning to start using lists more often, you may want to pay attention to the crucial differences between the bulleted lists and the numbered list. The bulleted list is used for conveying unordered information. This makes it ideal for communicating information like:
- Product Requirements
- Selling Points
- Tasks that do not need to be accomplished in a certain order
Numbered lists are typically used to communicate information that must be done in a specific order. You’ll most often see numbered lists in instructions. An online marketer might use the following numbered list.
- Sign up for our newsletter
- Confirm your e-mail address
- Claim your prize!
Numbered lists aren’t only used when they are establishing a sequential order, however. When you are adding a lot of detail to each point that you are making, it can be helpful to number them. Also if the list is taking the form of independent, but related information (such as company rules), numbered lists are considered appropriate.
Rules for Using Lists
There are conventions that go along with any type of writing, and lists are no exception. Here are some good guidelines to follow:
- Avoid using more than ten bullet points in a row (Numbered lists can ignore this rule).
- All information in a list should be related.
- Keep bullets short and to the point.
- Use the same sentence structure throughout the list.
- Don’t mix bullets and numbers at the same level of indentation.