• I collaborate with someone who insists on making every sentence (or two) in a business document into a bullet point, by prefacing it with a bullet.
  • This is typically done across a multi-page document, which is divided into sections with section headings.
  • Points which I consider real bullets then get a second level in the bullet point hierarchy. Numbering for 'bullet points' is almost never used.
  • This is done for clarity, but I think this looks terrible, takes up space and makes things less clear.
  • Are there any style references which explicitly discuss this practice? I'm looking for an objective discussion for why this a bad idea.
  • Thanks for your help!
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    • Welcome to Stack Exchange, where salutations and signatures at the end of messages are normally not required. • This question is utterly hilarious. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 12:31
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    • I'm sure your collaborator does this so it is easier to read. - It highlights the important sentences. - They are all important sentences. • I can see why you feel this practice has the opposite effect. - It's hard for me to write it. - I keep getting confused which bullet to use.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 12:46

2 Answers 2

  • Your co-writer is a pain in the tuchus.
  • I am sorry you have to put up with this annoying quirk of writing.
  • That being said, I found two references so far:

    The Oxford Dictionaries:

Bullet points are visually attractive and make it easy for a reader to locate important information. Nevertheless, try to use them sparingly: too many bullet-pointed sections in the same document will mean that their impact is lost.

How do I properly use bullet points in APA style? You don’t. The Publication Manual demonstrates two ways of making lists in your writing. All lists should be double-spaced. For a complete explanation, look in the Publication Manual under “Seriation” on pages 115-117.

(As a side note, SE really really doesn't want me to stack bullets.)

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    • By "stack bullets" do you mean nested lists? If so, this may help. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 18:52
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    Sweet! Thank you. • Didn't know that was here. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 18:56
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    Ach, @LaurenIpsum has opened Pandora's Box. Now it'll be bullet points for everyone. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 7:47
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    ::singing:: Oi've got a loverly bunch of bullet points... Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 10:04
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    [flat and toneless] There they are, dancing in a row.
    – killermist
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 14:52

Let your co-worker know that overuse of bullet points signifies a need to compartmentalise and control information in an attempt to render it harmless, and thus it is a sign of mental illness. Let your tone be sympathetic and understanding.

Seriously though, the reading of prose is becoming a lost art in the world of business, and complexities and nuances best presented in the format of a white paper or discussion document are now derided as a sign of fuzzy thinking and indecision.

So, while stylistically this rapid-fire bullet point presentation is bad for understanding, and in theory it's therefore bad for business, in practice to oppose it is probably politically bad for your career. It may be best to go along with it.

There's really only one way to keep your own sanity -- encourage your co-worker to exceed even the most fevered nightmares of bullet-pointilism, while privately implying to the future audience that the man has gone Quite Mad You Know. Hopefully you'll provoke a backlash that will keep him under control for a while.

Oh, see also: http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0001yB&topic_id=1

  • As a passive-aggressive, I concur with the passive-aggressive tactic. However, I've seen this backfire too often. One very visible case is the satire of Benjamin Franklin that very unfortunately led to the creation of Daylight Savings Time.
    – killermist
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 14:58

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