As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list — I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
— Gilbert & Sullivan, The Mikado
Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner, was a most efficient (if overly zealous) public servant, and his “little list” is famous to this day. With or without musical accompaniment, lists are a useful way to organize and present information. Communication would suffer if writers were forced to dump many information items into their text, separated only by commas.
For example, if you are describing a step-by-step procedure, a list is a much better format than covering everything in one paragraph to summarize what has to be done. Lists are also good to use when the information only has one dimension. In such a case a table would not be an appropriate way to present the items.
Microsoft Word 2000 fully supports list-makers with its bulleting and numbering features. We’ll review the ways that bullets and numbers are used in documents, and then show you how to use Word to create enumerated or formatted lists.
When and Why to Use Bullets vs. Numbers
Do you prepare a lot of documents in your organization? You probably have a company style guide that tells you how content is to be formatted, including lists. Or you may use a standard guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications. Nothing in this article is meant to contradict your organization’s style rules.
If you have only a simple series of items to enumerate, no more than three or four items with no punctuation within each item, you may be able to (1) run the items into a single paragraph, (2) set each item off with numerals or italic letters in parentheses, and (3) separate the items with commas or semicolons.
In a long list of items, it is almost always preferable to begin each item on a line by itself, outline style. Each line may begin with a number, a letter, or a graphic symbol called a bullet.
In general, style guides call for all of the items in a list to be parallel in grammatical construction. The style guide will also tell you whether and when items should begin with a capital letter and when they should end with a punctuation mark, such as a comma, period, or semicolon.
If the items in the list indicate a sequence or a procedure, or if they are going to be referred to individually elsewhere in the text, it is better to enumerate them. That is, to assign each one a sequential letter or number. Otherwise, the list may use a bullet (e.g., • or ¯) at the start of each item.
There are two other conditions that may affect your use of bullets and numbers. Some style guides dictate use of bullets or numbers depending on the length of the list. In scholarly work, bullets are sometimes considered undesirable.
How to Use Word 2000 With lists
There are three common systems for indicating a list and the items in it:
- Bullets only
- Numbers or letters only
- Numbers followed by letters or bullets
Word 2000 provides default solutions to these situations. If the defaults are not acceptable, Word also offers a very flexible method for customizing each system to the needs of your document.
The simplest solution has the added benefit of being automatic. If you end a line in your document by pressing the Enter key, then start the next line with a number or a letter followed by a period and a space, Word assumes you are making an enumerated list.
When you press Enter at the end of a line that you started with a number-period-space, Word will begin the next line with the next number in sequence, preceded by a single tab indentation and followed by a period and a space. To stop the numbering, simply press the Enter key twice (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: The next line begins with the next number in sequence
You can use single or double parentheses with the letter or number instead of the period. Word will make the enumeration style of the following items match what you entered.
In the same way, if you press Enter, then start the next line with either an asterisk (*) or a hyphen (-) and a space, Word creates a bulleted list with round bullets or em dashes, respectively, at the start of each item (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: A bulleted list with round bullets at the start of each item
You can also type the first line of the list and then select either the Numbering button or the Bullets button (see Figure 3). Word will insert Arabic numbers and periods or plain round bullets, respectively.
Figure 3: The Numbering button and Bullets button
Word’s automatic list-maker works with any normal combination of letters, numbers, periods, parentheses, and angle brackets. If you end an enumerated series by pressing Enter twice, then start the very next line with another such combination, Word assumes that you are now typing a subcategory of the last line entered. Word starts the new line with a number or symbol — indented one more stop to make the relationship clear (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: The new line with a symbol
If the simple automatic approach is not sufficient for your needs, you will use the Bullets and Numbering choice from the Format menu to set up your lists.
When you make this choice, the Bullets and Numbering dialog box will open (see Figure 5). Depending on the result you require, choose one of the three tabs (Bulleted, Numbered, Outline Numbered) to see the available selections for your list.
Figure 5: The Bullets and Numbering dialog box
In each case, point and click the style selection you want and then choose the OK button.
How to Switch or Customize Styles
In many cases, one of the default selections will be satisfactory. If you try a selection and then decide it isn’t right, simply right click in any item in your list, choose Bullets and Numbering… from the context menu, and make a different choice from the Bullets and Numbering dialog box. All of the items in the list will be changed to the new style.
You may also want to customize styles — for example, to change the specific bullet used in your lists. In the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, you can see the current range of choices. Pick one of them to modify by clicking on it. Then choose the Customize… button. The Customize Bulleted List dialog box opens (see Figure 6). Choose any of the bullets shown in order to replace it.
Figure 6: The Customize Bulleted List dialog box
Next, choose the Bullet button and the Symbol dialog box will open. (If you are familiar with the Insert Symbol dialog box on the Insert menu, this works the same way.) Make your choice from the fonts available on the drop-down list, and then pick your new bullet. Changes to numbering and outline styles work in a similar fashion.
How to Change Indents and Spacing With Bullets and Numbers
While you are in the Customize dialog box, you may also change the positioning and indentation of the numbers or symbols, as well as the spacing between them and the text. Another way to do this is to highlight the entire list and then click and drag the markers in the ruler (at the top of the document window) to make the adjustments you desire. You may need to go to the View menu to make the ruler visible.
Finally, you can choose the Increase Indent or the Decrease Indent button from the toolbar or the context menu (see Figure 7). This will change the position of the selected item by one tab stop and will also result in the number or symbol changing to match the new indent level.
Figure 7: The Increase Indent button and Decrease Indent button
How to Use Small Graphics Instead of Standard Bullets
In less formal documents, it can be fun to use small, colorful graphics or clip art — similar to ones you see on the Web — in place of standard bullets. In fact, you might do this if you are creating a Word document that you intend to save as a Web page.
On the Bulleted tab, choose the Picture… button to display the Picture Bullet dialog box (see Figure 8). Here you may choose still and motion graphics to use as bullets. You can import clip art or go online to see a larger selection.
Figure 8: The Picture Bullet dialog box
How to Troubleshoot Bullets and Numbers
There are several problems users encounter when formatting numbers and bullets in Word. Word provides an excellent set of Help articles for resolving difficulties you may have once in a while, but here are the two most common things that go wrong, and the solutions:
Numbers don’t start over: Suppose you have made one numbered list in your document, containing items one through eight. You then make another numbered list later in the document, but Word inserts a “nine” for the first item number. To correct this, place the insertion cursor inside the first item of the second list, open the Bullets and Numbering dialog box again, choose the Numbered tab, and at the bottom select the option Restart numbering.
Numbers do start over: You included a numbered list in your document and after the third item you inserted a picture, with a carriage return above and below it. When you resume the list below the picture, the item numbers start over again with “one.” Once again, place the insertion cursor inside the first numbered item after the picture, open the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, choose the Numbered tab, and at the bottom select the option Continue previous list.
So now you can start your own little list.
The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.