Vertical lists highlight a series of requirements or other information in a visually clear way. Use vertical lists to help your user focus on important material. Vertical lists:
- Highlight levels of importance
- Help the reader understand the order in which things happen
- Make it easy for the reader to identify all necessary steps in a process
- Add blank space for easy reading
- Are an ideal way to present items, conditions, and exceptions.
Each completed well drilling application must contain a detailed statement including the following information: the depth of the well, the casing and cementing program, the circulation media (mud, air, foam, etc.), the expected depth and thickness of fresh water zones, and well site layout and design.
With your application for a drilling permit, provide the following information:
Vertical lists are also helpful in clarifying the chronological order of steps in a process. With these lists, consider numbering the items to suggest the order of steps.
|Vertical list suggests the correct order of events|
When a foreign student presents a completed Form I-20:
However, you can over-use vertical lists. Remember to use them to highlight important information, not to over-emphasize trivial matters. If you use bullets, use solid round or square ones. Bullets are not the place to be overly creative. Large creative bullets with strange shapes tend to distract the reader and may not display properly on some computer systems.
Your lists will be easier to read if you:
- Always use a lead-in sentence to explain your lists;
- Indent your lead-in sentence from the left margin; and
- Use left justification only – never center justification.
When you come to class, you should bring the following—
In the example above, the lack of a lead-in sentence on the left makes it unclear who is to bring the supplies. The lead-in sentence on the right clarifies who is responsible for bringing supplies. Indenting makes it easier to see how the information is chunked. Use parallel construction and make sure each of the bullets in a list can make a complete sentence if combined with the lead-in sentence.
The following example is a list that is not parallel:
You must submit:
- Your application,
- Recommendation letter, and
- Mail it express mail.
The bullet "Mail it express mail" does not work with the rest of the list. The other items are nouns, but this is a verb. It isn't something to submit. It's a separate part of the instructions.
- Charrow, Veda R., Erhardt, Myra K. and Charrow, Robert P. Clear & Effective Legal Writing, 4th edition, 2007, Aspen Publishers, New York, NY, pp. 181-182.
- Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 100, 125.
- Murawski, Thomas A., Writing Readable Regulations, 1999, Carolina Academic Press Durham, NC, pp. 25, 81-84.
- Securities and Exchange Commission, Plain English Handbook, 1998, Washington, DC, p. 34.