Writing tip: Use 1, 2, 3 for first, second, third

When writing a list, how do you decide whether to use dot points or numbers?

Use dots for equal lots. A short shopping list is the kind of list that is suitable for dots.

Dot points are perfect when:

  • items in the list are equally important, and
  • the sequence of items is irrelevant.

Use a numbered list (1, 2, 3...) only for items that you think of as first, second, third...

The first item might be first in various senses, for example:

  • Importance (e.g. first in a competition), or
  • Sequence (e.g. the first step in a procedure), or
  • Time (e.g. the event that happened first).

Example of a numbered list: How to boil an egg.

  1. Place eggs in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover them with cold water.
  2. Cover the eggs with at least an inch of water.
  3. Bring the water to a full boil and boil for 8 minutes.
  4. Remove the boiled eggs from the water and transfer them to a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes.
  5. Then either peel and serve the eggs, or refrigerate them.

Plenty more tips like this one in the Contented Painless Grammar course!



Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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