Let's say I have a document with a list like this:

  • aaaa
  • bbbb
  • cccc
  • dddd

Should I put nothing, a semicolon, a full stop or what at the end of each line? This is for an academic paper. We don't have a specific style guide we're supposed to follow.

I found some information on the Internet and apparently: if there is no full stop within an item (as in 2nd and 3rd item in the list above), the item is closed by a semicolon, otherwise by a full stop (as in the 1st item in the list above).

Is this correct?

Is this applicable to a mixed (full stop within some item, no full stop within some other time) list?


2 Answers 2


This is a stylistic choice. I would never use a comma or semicolon at the end of a list item. I would use a period/full stop only if the item is a full sentence. To wit:

Star Trek is known for breaking new ground on television in several ways:

• Kirk and Uhura's kiss in "Plato's Stepchildren" was the first interracial kiss on broadcast TV.

• Chekov (a Russian) and Uhura (a black woman) as bridge officers

• An alien as the first officer (and in the pilot, a woman as the first officer)

• In later series, black and female captains, and a Klingon bridge officer

• Apocryphally, Lt. Malcolm Reed was intended to be gay, which would have made all the security officers contravene the hulking testosterone-soaked bruiser stereotype (Yar, a wasp-waisted woman; Worf, the oddly subdued Klingon; Odo, the thoughtful shapeshifter; Tuvok, a Vulcan; and Reed, a slender gay man).

  • I think the only time to have commas, etc at the end of list items is if the entire list makes a sentence. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 5:19
  • @NeilFein I might let that go as an editor, but I'd never write it that way. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    I generally agree with this, but I find it very hard to mix sentences (with periods) and fragments (without) in a single list. Once I've written a sentence and thus put a period at the end of one of them, I want to write the others as sentences so they'll get punctuation too, for consistency. Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 18:29
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio Absolutely. I wrote the list above as a mix purely for the sake of the example. If I were writing it for myself, I would make the grammar parallel — either all phrases (no periods) or all sentences (with periods). Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:01
  • 1
    Agreed. Also, I never knew that about Lt. Reed. I'm gonna have to re-watch some Enterprise now. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 3:55

To me, there are two options:

1. Your list is a list

The following fruits are healthy:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • cherrys

I love to eat them.

Lists don't have punctuation. Even if each list item is a full sentence, you don't need to put a full stop after it (unless it is a quote).

What you need to remember:

  1. Sleep well
  2. Eat well
  3. Love your parents

If your list lists sentences, list them with the punctuation:

"Come home."
But Joan only shook her head. (from John Jake, The Boring Book)

These are my favourite sentences from John Jake's Boring Book:

  1. "Come home."
  2. But Joan only shook her head.

Both list items are understood to be quotes from a text, that is, the first sentence was written with quotation marks in the original.

2. Your list is a sentence styled as a list

I love to eat

  • oranges,
  • bananas, and
  • apples,

because they are healthy.

Sentences have punctuation.

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