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While writing documents, blogs, articles, webpages and the like, I always get confused whether use bullets or number down the list of entities.

Specifically, I want to know the preferred way (bullets or numbers) to list down the items while describing...

a) Services of the company
b) Benefits of the service
c) Industries we serve in, and
d) Why choose us (for product/service)

3

Bullets describe items that are usually not separable (so ranking and order are not important) and will not be referenced later. For example:

All applicants must provide the following documents:

  • Application form
  • Proof of address

If you need to reference them, then it is better to use:

All applicants must provide the following documents:

a) Application form

b) Proof of address

Item b) can be any utility bills, bank statements or letters from government agencies.

And if ranking or order (e.g. steps to bake a cake) is important, then it makes sense to use numbering.

For writings that are less formal, bullets are fine. In formal writing, bullets make your writing seem compact and packed. If it is about an idea or description, it is recommended to unpack the ideas into separate paragraphs.

For your use case, I recommend writing it as separate paragraphs with headings, e.g.

Services of the company
(Insert details here)

Benefits of the service
(Insert details here)

Industries we serve in
(Insert details here)

Why choose us
(Insert details here)

3

No way is 'preferred' in all circumstances. Which you use should be governed by your purpose in bulleting or numbering.

  • Bulleting is employed as a visual device to make your structure more evident. In this answer, for instance, you can see at a glance that I am treating two subtopics, and you can see at the same glance where each begins.

    Note, however, that bulleting is generally deprecated in the most formal academic prose. Such writing typically develops its points in much longer arguments, often several paragraphs or pages long, so bullets would not make the structure 'jump off the page'. Headings and subheads, often typographically distinguished, are more effective.

  • Numbering is employed when you wish to make a specific sequence of points evident—this first, then this, then this—or to facilitate cross-reference between passages—for instance, 'see 2.1.3, below'.

    This sort of structuring is common in academic and legal writing; but it is not usually emphasized by 'hanging' the numbers in the margin.

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  • I asked preferred way not for all but listed the entities I'm concerned about (Services, benefits...and so on!). – Maulik V Jan 22 '14 at 13:00
  • @MaulikV But you do not indicate how you intend to discuss these topics, or at what length--and that, I have tried to suggest, is what should govern your typographic treatment. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 22 '14 at 13:04
  • @MaulikV I've made recommendations in my answer below. – drhanlau Jan 22 '14 at 13:15
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    Or numbering is also good when you want it be clear how many. If you say "There are ten things", then it is visually helpful to number them 1-10 in the list. – nxx Jan 22 '14 at 14:45
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There are no fast rules, Go with what promotes better communications. Never use bullets for sequential instructions. If you are listing more than 4 items, I would use numbers. Imagine if you wrote a job description and listed several tasks. If during the interview, you want to communicate with the interview panels or the interviewee a task on the list, it is easier to mention the number rather than say, "the 13th bullet or the 5th bullet from the top/bottom."

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It depends on the approach of that items.

You should number the list of issues whether you want give sort by importance other you want refer to it afterwards.

When your only intention is to numerate the issues but you want give them the same importance and you don't refer it later or refer to these in main chapters, you might use bullets.

1
  • The word "numerate" does not seem correct in this answer. An "enumeration" would use numbers, not bullets. Did you mean "distinguish" instead? – Jasper Sep 30 '15 at 11:17

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