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[letter]Use Lots Of Lists In Your Letters


Vertical lists highlight important topics and make it easy for the reader to identify all elements in a series of requirements or procedures. In the example below, we've created a kind of a checklist for the reader.


When you come to class you should bring a tablet, a pen or pencil, the form you just completed, two copies of your 171, and a resume if you have one.When you come to class you should bring the following--
  • A tablet
  • A pen or pencil
  • The form you just completed
  • Two copies of your 171
  • A resume (if you already have one)

Normally you should use solid round or square bullets for a letter. Bullets are not the place to be overly creative. Large creative bullets with strange shapes tend to distract the reader. However, in some circumstances numbers are a helpful option. You can best use numbers when you are highlighting the order of steps in a process, or when you are making a point that there are a certain number of items in the list. See the examples below--

When to Use Numbers for Your Vertical List
Chronological Order Highlighting the Number of Items
There are several steps to apply--
  1. Complete the application
  2. Sign the application
  3. Have your supervisor review and sign the application
  4. Keep the bottom copy
  5. Return the rest of the application to Human Resources

Numbering the list above emphasizes that the student should keep a copy signed by the supervisor.
We need to know your opinion about the location of our annual meeting. We narrowed it down to three choices--
  1. Our own office complex
  2. White House Conference Center
  3. Cameron Hotel




Numbering the list above reinforces the three choices mentioned in the introductory sentence.


Some Other Rules About Vertical Lists

Here are some additional rules you should follow to make it easier to read your vertical lists.

  • Always use a lead-in sentence to explain your lists.
  • It is helpful to indent your vertical list from the lead-in sentence margin.
  • Never center a vertical list

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Classroom supplies
  • A tablet
  • A pen or pencil
  • The paperwork you sent us when you first applied for class

Without a lead-in sentence, it is not clear who is to bring the supplies to class. Centering the bullets may make a nice pattern, but it makes it very difficult to see where statements begin and end.
Classroom Supplies

When you come to class, you should bring the following--

  • A tablet
  • A pen or pencil
  • The paperwork you sent us when you first applied for class

In this sample the lead-in sentence makes it clear who is to bring the supplies to class. Indenting makes it easier to see how the information is chunked.

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