Biting the bullet point

Copywriters often use bullet points as a way of breaking up text to make it easier to read. In our busy world, a reader can very quickly be put off by website content, newsletters or sales brochures with too many long sentences and dense paragraphs.

The biggest mistake people make when including bullet points in their website copy, marketing material or other copy, is to use too many of them. If you have a list of 12 points you’d like to make, work out if you can break them down into two sets of six or three sets of four – that way they will be much easier on the eye.

Consider these two examples:

Example 1

A good press release will:

  • have a great title
  • be targeted towards the person receiving it
  • include the full details of your event
  • have a quote from someone in your company
  • not have spelling mistakes
  • be grammatically correct
  • include your full contact details


Example 2

A good press release will have:

  • a great title
  • a targeted approach
  • the correct spelling and grammar

and should include:

  • the full details of your event
  • a quote from someone in your company
  • your full contact details

The second example is much punchier, clearer to read and easier to take in.


How long should each point be?

A good copywriter will know to vary copy depending on where it’s going to be used.

A PowerPoint presentation only needs a few words for each bullet point, as the speaker will be elaborating on these points during the presentation. In other fields, for example your company sales manual, it’s fine to have longer paragraphs next to a bullet point, as long as you don’t have too many bullet points in a row.

However, you should first consider whether this text would be better written out as a paragraph. Combining paragraphs with bullet points is always better than overusing one or the other.


Using different styles of bullet points in copy

A copywriter will sometimes add variety by using different bullet point styles. Using ticks instead of circles or squares can reinforce a positive message, for example:

Our sales training courses will help you to:

✓   Win more custom

✓  Increase profit margins

✓  Retain existing customers


A numbered list can also work well, as you can see in the following example:

There are three key reasons to employ a copywriter:

  1. You don’t have time to write your own copy
  2. Your copy will look more professional
  3. You will get a useful outside view on your business

These examples could have been written out as paragraphs, but in both cases they would have had less impact than the lists above. Beware using cute symbols inappropriately, ie love heart bullet point shapes on a professional document – unless you are promoting chocolates for Valentine’s Day.


Punctuating your bullet point list

Generally speaking, your list should be prefaced by a colon. Short fragments don’t need punctuation at the end, but longer phrases or full sentences can be punctuated with a semi-colon or full stop at the end of each line.

Example 1 – no punctuation

Blogging is a good way to:

  • drive traffic to your website
  • show your expertise
  • engage with customers


Example 2 – semi-colons and a final full stop

Email marketing campaigns are often used over traditional print marketing because:

  • they are a relatively cheap way to get your message out to your customers and prospects;
  • you can add links to your website or video;
  • you can measure how many people open the email and click through.


Example 3 – full stops throughout

There are several good reasons to regularly update your website:

  • Keeping your content up to date will allow customers to see the full range of products and services you have on offer.
  • Adding new content to your website will help it rise in the Google rankings.
  • Customers might think you are no longer trading if your last blog was added three years ago.

As with all copywriting, consistency is key. Either punctuate the end of every line, or not at all.

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