A-Z Guide to Listing Things in an Essay

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Whether inexperienced students or expert journalists with many years of writing practice, all assignment writers need to use lists in their compositions. It’s unavoidable because lists help in structuring and enhance the readability and clarity of the content you’re trying to deliver to your target audience. Thus, it’s vital to know the essentials of correct list creation so that all writing pieces produced by you look professional. Experts from Grade Miners share their professional tips on listing to help you hone this skill in this article.

Why Use Lists Overall?

Many texts look better with lists, from academic writing to blogs in popular online magazines. The reason for their appeal is a clear visual structure that helps the writer to deliver specific information:

  • Enumerate the items coming in a sequence;
  • Emphasize a specific part of the text;
  • Present parallel phrases in a sentence correctly;
  • Present alternatives in a visually explicit manner.

As you can see, lists perform many functions and can help the writer present their intended data to capture the readers’ attention quicker. Reading a text with lists is much simpler than getting through a wall of text. Thus, it’s essential not to neglect this literary instrument, employing it in your text to enhance reader-friendliness. If you need more help in writing your essay correctly, then use SEOToolsCentre’s free online paraphrase tool.

Bullet-Point or Numbered List?

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Experts providing professional assignment essay help always emphasize the importance of choosing the right list type for your text. You can choose from two common types of lists: bullet-point and numbered ones. Here are the rules for using each:

  • It’s vital to use numbered lists in cases when you enumerate some sequential actions or steps. In this way, you can focus the reader’s attention on that sequence, letting them remember it and perform step-by-step instructions correctly.
  • Bullet-point lists are fine for situations where you just name multiple points in a list without any sequence or prioritization. They have similar meanings and weights, and the order of their presentation doesn’t matter.
  • When using numbered lists, students need to choose between letters: (a), (b), (c), etc., and numbers: (1), (2), (3), etc. Experts recommend opting for letters in the horizontal, in-sentence lists, while vertical lists look better if they are numbered. Besides, you can create a hierarchy with the help of mixing letters and numbers if your list has many levels of subpoints.

Experts employed in the best essay writer service also note that the choice of list type should depend on the amount of emphasis you want to dedicate to the list. If you’re okay with a minimal emphasis, it’s okay to use in-text lists. If you need more emphasis, it’s better to use vertical lists to attract much more attention.

Why Is Creating Lists So Hard?

Strangely enough, an overwhelming number of students experience problems with lists. They forget about the tiny details and peculiarities of this writing aspect and end up with substantial grade reductions because of those errors. Here’s what a standard student may mistakenly do in their lists:

  • Confuse the rules for using bullets and numbers in lists.
  • Use phrases in lists that don’t look like parallel structures.
  • Apply redundant punctuation in the lists.
  • Miss the strong, unifying lead-in sentence preceding the list.
  • Use too many or too few points in the list, thus confusing its meaning.
  • Use incorrect capitalization styles in the lists.

Paying proper attention to these issues can improve your grades and make your lists look more competent and professional.

Mind the Syntax

You might be surprised to find out that lists have a realm of syntactic rules you need to follow to complete them correctly. Even worse, every formatting style (like APA, MLA, etc.) has its own set of conventions for listing. Here are the essential points to keep in mind:

#1 Using a Colon

The majority of authors composing lists abuse the colon in such sentences. In fact, it should be used only under specific conditions, namely in sentences where the lead-in phrase represents a complete sentence. Let’s consider a couple of examples to illustrate this point:

WRONG: You need to buy milk, eggs, and potatoes.

CORRECT: You need to buy milk, eggs, and potatoes.

If you want to use a colon in this example, change the lead-in phrase a bit, like:

Here is your shopping list: milk, eggs, and potatoes.

#2 Using a Dash

A dash is a good way to go if you want to use a short list within a sentence. Here’s what it looks like:

I always buy fruit in this shop – bananas, apples, and oranges are great here.

Still, experts point out that whenever you choose between a dash and a colon, opt for the latter. It looks more professional and is always the right choice.

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About the Author: Brian Novak