Is There a Point to Bullet Points?

There seems to be this debate raging quietly: Are bullet points still effective?

Bullet points were originally used to call out important information the writer didn’t want the reader to miss. They then became ubiquitous with presentations, sales material, learning material, and nearly everything else.

As with all widely accepted practices, bullet points are now wavering between overused and, as such, greatly ignored, or still the best thing since peanut butter.

Presentations, trying to keep up with this new surge in media, are trying to decide how much bullet points contribute to the audience’s absorption of information. Beyond Bullet Points (great book) suggests that presentations should drop bullet points in favor of blended visual-auditory experiences, the argument being that bullet points invite audiences to tune out the speaker and miss important supplementary information.

Writing, on the other hand, seems to still be trying to find the balance between well-done, well-used bullet points and bulleting for the sake of bulleting. Bullets are still being used to show what’s really important, but writers are finding they need to use them with purpose, too. (My source on this one is actually a very nice post on how to not write a how-to post. She really does a great job of showing the inherent benefits and problems with relying on bullets.)

Perhaps it’s a matter of the information you’re trying to convey, and the way you’re trying to convey it.


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