Pet Peeve: Must Lists Look So Ugly?

Syllabus Montreal TranslationVertical lists drive me mad and apparently I’m not alone. The CMOS Shop Talk team from the Chicago Manual of Style recently put out a blog post to respond to the many questions that they get from their readers about this very issue.

Lists crop up all the time, so I highly recommend checking out this post, especially if you don’t subscribe to their grammar guide online or have a print copy on your shelf.

My beef with lists boils down to the ones that are punctuated as a sentence. I only like semi-colons to be used sparingly, so to see a long list loaded down with semi-colons at the end of every item makes me cringe. Is there no better way?

Reporting to the regional manager, John is responsible for

  • overseeing the local team;
  • reviewing its sales figures; and
  • forecasting next year’s revenue.

I believe there is. Whenever I see a list, I try to make sure the introductory phrase forms a complete sentence and then I simply slap a colon on the end. That’s it, that’s all.

Here’s what happens when you apply this trick to the example above.

Reporting to the regional manager, John is responsible for the following:

  • Overseeing the local team
  • Reviewing its sales figures
  • Forecasting next year’s revenue

Ta-da! Semi-colons are no longer required. The items look tighter, and the list, cleaner.

Was that really so hard?


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