Some of the most effective tools for clearer business writing are so obvious we tend to overlook them. Take bullet points, the unsung heroes of the print world.

Bullets work because they:

  • Add structure and organisation to your writing
  • Provide multiple entry points in to the text
  • Help simplify information
  • Emphasise key points
  • Improve comprehension

How to use bullets:

  • Begin with a header/title followed by a colon (as above)
  • Make sure that text and bullets are properly aligned
  • Try to apply some sort of logical order, perhaps based on the alphabet, chronology or priority.

But watch out for these common bullet mistakes:

* Having too many of them: bullets should be used for emphasis, but if you emphasise too much, the emphasis is lost.

* Using different colours or fonts: the strongest colour is always black. Simplicity makes for clarity.

* Avoid non-parallel construction: bullet points still need to make grammatical sense and fit into the context of the paragraph. You’ll notice that the first two items in this list begin with a present participle ending in -ing. The third item (this one) doesn’t, and as a result it jars. It would have been better to start with ‘avoiding’ rather than ‘avoid’.

Bullets aren’t the answer to every writing problem, but they are a useful structural device to make your writing clearer, more readable and give key points greater impact.