Is it okay to use bullets in academic writing? My kid’s seventh grade teacher forbids it.

That’s too bad because research shows that bulleted items are well-read.

  • Perhaps it is the white space preceding a bullet or following the bulleted item that draws the eye. White space is known to make writing look friendlier and less intimidating.
  • Or perhaps it is the brevity of most bulleted items that lures the reader.
  • It could also be the obvious organization that bullets imply.

Using bullets (called glyphs) is common in business and technical writing.  Bulleted items can be lists of words, sentences or paragraphs.  Go online and you can find many sites that offer advice on how to use bullets.

More recently bullets have become accepted in academic writing, but to be sure, check the style manual a discipline or teacher recommends.

This is a fifth grader's organizer for a story she wrote about meeting Harry Potter.

This is a fifth grader’s organizer for a story she wrote about meeting Harry Potter.

I checked the SAT website to see if bulleted items are allowed on the new SAT essay, but I couldn’t find an answer.  However, the rules explaining the new essay used several sets of bulleted items.

When doing power point presentations, students should use bullets in their slides, not sentences.  For example

Bears eat

  • berries
  • honey from bee hives
  • bird seed from bird feeders
  • fish

Students create Power Point projects all the time.  They need to learn this useful skill.  On science project presentations and on posters, bullets are more apt than paragraphs and are better read.

At your next teacher meeting you might ask your son’s teacher why she doesn’t allow bullets.  She might think that bullets are not formal enough for academic writing.  Wrong.  Or she might think that some students would turn in a laundry list of bullets rather than write fully developed paragraphs.  Right.  She would be better off teaching the proper use of bullets than forbidding them entirely since eventually almost all students use them.

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