Add Clarity to Your Message with Bullets & Numbers

From the moment writing was invented, a communication problem arose. Person-to-person, a speaker has to take a breath at some point, allowing the listener a chance to respond. On anything written, from website to email or from manual to product insert, monologue is the rule. The recipient cannot interrupt to answer or ask questions or to verify an important point.

One solution: bulleted and numbered lists.

If you are writing to ask questions and you genuinely want answers, then number each question. Do not group questions into long paragraphs. Numbers prevent the recipient from becoming confused by the relationship between questions that are haphazardly grouped together. If a question is missed or misunderstood, both sender and recipient can easily refer to it by number.

As for directions, take a hint from Google Maps, where each step in a set of driving directions is numbered. They know that dense paragraphs of directions are always misread because the tendency of a reader is to scan, not break them down. Using numbers not only ensures that the directions are followed step-by-step, but it allows for questions about a particular step if the reader needs clarification or verification.

In general marketing material, such as brochures or websites, bullets and numbers bring interest as well as clarity to the text, avoiding large and forbidding blocks of type. Be careful to be consistent in your use and selection of bullets/numbers, as readers are thrown off by arbitrary changes from, say, round bullets to dashes or Roman to Arabic numerals. They believe the change signals a change in importance (or simple sloppiness, which is also undesirable).

When clear communication is important to you and your customers, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications is ready to help.