Formatting tips when writing steps & lists

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Use this page for suggested rules and standards when writing steps and lists. You can also check out Purdue Online Writing Lab or Chicago Manual of Style (subscription required) for complete grammar rules.

Lists

  • Use a period to end each bullet if they complete a sentence. If not, do not add a period to any. What you are looking for is consistency is formatting.
  • Use parallel structure. Each list item should have the same logical and grammatical structure, such as:
    • Write all commands to the same audience.
    • Use main clauses or full sentences.
    • See Grammar tips for more!
  • Do not use single bullets. Lists require at least two items. A single bullet standing alone simply ‘looks off.’
  • Keep bulleted lists short. A massive bulleted list becomes a difficult to read block of text.

Steps

  • There are multiple options for writing steps. You can use a single action verb per step, or put multiple actions on a single line to shorten vertical length.
    • Example:
      1. Enter your account details.
      2. Change your preferences.
      3. Click Save.
    • Example: Enter your account details, change your preferences, then click Save.
  • Include an action verb in every numbered step. If it’s not an action, use bullets instead.
  • Write an intro statement or a heading before your steps. This way, your readers know what they will accomplish once they complete the set of steps.
  • Make sure your steps complete the process you set out to accomplish.

Step text formatting

  • Format introductions with consistency if you are writing many set of steps on a page.
    • Example: To do this, follow these steps:
    • Example: Follow these steps to do this:
  • Consider using formatting to call out items of importance in a step. Do not bold generic terms though as the bolding loses impact.
    • Correct: Press the Power button on the TV to turn it on.
    • Incorrect: Press the Power button on the TV to turn it on.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation when writing steps. See Grammar tips for more!

Step template

To do [insert action], follow these steps:

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3
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