Ensure that you construct parallel lists

A parallel list means that each item in the list has the same structure. For example, each item might: 

  • start with the same part of speech (noun, verb)
  • use the same verb tense (present, past, future)
  • use the same voice (active or passive)
  • use the same sentence type (statement, question)

For example, in the bulleted list above, each item starts with a verb in the present tense and includes an example in round brackets.

Four basic types of lists

1. Lists of short items (without main verbs) should be introduced by a full sentence and have the following features:

  • introductory colon
  • no initial capitals
  • no punctuation (very short items) or comma after each item
  • a full stop at the end.

2. Lists in which each item completes the introductory sentence should:

  • begin with the introductory colon;
  • label each item with the appropriate bullet, number or letter;
  • end each item with a semicolon;
  • close with a full stop.

 3. Lists in which all items are complete statements without a grammatical link to the introductory sentence should proceed as follows:

  1. introduce the list with a colon;
  2. label each item with the appropriate bullet, number or letter;
  3. start each item with a lower-case letter;
  4. end each one with a semicolon;
  5. put a full stop at the end.

4. Lists in which any one item consists of several complete sentences should be announced with a complete sentence and continue as indicated below:

  1. Introduce the list with a colon.
  2. Label each item with the appropriate bullet, number or letter.
  3. Begin each item with a capital letter.
  4. End each statement with a full stop.

This allows several sentences to be included under a single item without throwing punctuation into confusion.


E-Write. Writing for Online Readers.'How and Why to Make your Lists Parallel (And what does parallel mean?)'. Retrieved from http://www.ewriteonline.com/how-and-why-to-make-your-lists-parallel-and-what-does-parallel-mean/