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By Tatiana Estévez

Bullet points are lists of items or short statement points. They are not supposed to be full sentences, at least not when used in PowerPoint. The traditional style of formatting bullet points is to finish each line item with a comma or hyphen, and the last bullet to have a full stop.

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  • Answering questions;
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This is considered a bit old fashioned and many companies prefer the style of ‘open punctuation’ for PowerPoint slides. I wouldn’t allow the above in my documents and will take it out if someone tries to do this.

Generally there is no real rule and you can write the above either with full stops or without as long it is consistent:

Oxford Dictionaries says:

Bullet points are used to draw attention to important information within a document so that a reader can identify the key issues and facts quickly. There are no fixed rules about how to use them, but here are some guidelines.

 

 

However most people create PowerPoint slides for the company they’re working for. So normally house style will apply (the guidelines linked to above won’t be followed) and the most generally applied rule in all the companies I have worked with, is that bullet points do not have a full stop at the end.

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Sometimes though, people don’t use bullet point slides effectively. They create a page of text that is actually just sentences and paragraphs, but they write them as bullet points*. In cases like this, it would seem like the correct thing would be to not have full-stops at the end. Yet in my experience, companies still insist that the above rule is applied and no full-stops.

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The main reason for this is consistency within the document and particularly on the page, when there can be a mixture of the two style of bullets. Consistency is considered an important thing to have in desktop publishing for various reasons. Although the guidelines mentioned above by Oxford Dictionaries are good guidelines, most people end up making mistakes and are unable to be consistent within themselves, so it is just easier to apply one rule to the whole document.

Exceptions to the rule (aren’t there always?)

Usually when one of the bullets is actually a question, you should put a question mark at the end of the sentence yet you still omit the full-stops on the other non-question bullets.


* This may seem strange to people without experience of slides produced in many companies, in particular professional and financial services, but the reason why this happens is frequently the ‘presentation’ or ‘pitch’ document, is actually a summary of the entire proposal, or may even be the client deliverable (a summary of the service provided to the client) and therefore it has to be quite a detailed document*.

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