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How to Make Your List Items and Bullet Points Super Smooth

Posted By Ali Luke 26th of February 2019 Writing Content 0 Comments

Lists and Parallelism

This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

Do you ever use lists in your blogging?

They might be bullet points, tips that you’re sharing in a list post, or even a simple list of three or four items in a sentence.

If you’ve been writing blog posts for a while, coming up with bullet points or list items might seem like second nature. But there could be a crucial factor you’re overlooking.


Say what?

“Parallelism”, in this context, simply means making sure the items on your list correspond to one another – that is, they’re parallel.

It’s often easiest to understand through examples.

Seeing Parallelism in Action

Here’s an example of a list that doesn’t work.

When you’re writing a blog post, it’s important to:

  • Give it a great title
  • Crafting a strong opening line
  • To use subheadings

All of those bullet points could work. But not in the same list.

Notice how the list is introduced: it’s important to. Every item on the list needs to fit with this opening phrase.

It’s important to … give it a great title. (Yep, that works.)

It’s important to … crafting a strong opening line. (Nope. It should be “craft” not “crafting”.)

It’s important to … to use subheadings. (Nope. It repeats “to”.)

To work properly, the full list needs to read:

When you’re writing a blog post, it’s important to:

  • Give it a great title
  • Craft a strong opening line
  • Use subheadings

But a lack of parallelism isn’t always obvious at first glance.

Take a look at these (fictitious) bullet points from a sales page.

  • Grow your business faster than ever before
  • Money while you sleep
  • This is the easiest system ever invented – you can use it straight away
  • Discover the secrets you’ve been missing all this time

As well as having a rather dubious “get rich quick” vibe, those bullet points don’t quite fit together as a list. They’re grammatically correct, as there’s no introductory text. But they’d read more smoothly if they all started with an imperative verb and were all roughly the same length, like this:

  • Grow your business faster than ever before
  • Make money while you’re asleep
  • Start using this super-easy system instantly
  • Discover the secrets you’ve been missing all this time

This might seem like a small thing. But when you’re crafting a sales page, you want to make it as easy to read as possible.

Great Places to Use Parallelism in Lists on Your Blog

Within your blog posts, look out for opportunities to use parallelism:

  • Whenever you have a short list within a sentence. For instance, “Today, I wrote a letter, visited my grandma, and went for a jog”. Note how each verb is in the past tense. You probably do this naturally already, but it’s worth double-checking when you edit your post to make sure all your lists are working correctly.
  • Whenever you create a list of bullet points. Even if you don’t have a specific phrase introducing your bullet points, make them all match. That usually means starting them all in the same way – with a verb in the right form, a noun, an adjective, or whatever works for your list. It could also mean ending them all in the same way (e.g. with a question mark).
  • Whenever you write a list post. The list items (usually the subheadings) in a list post might be separated by several paragraphs of text. But they should still match one another if you want your post to seem well constructed.

Elsewhere on your blog, look out for things like:

  • Calls to action on your About or Start Here page. If you’re offering readers several options, have you phrased them all so they match?
  • Lists of bullet points on your sales pages. We took a look at this earlier: parallel bullet points look polished and professional, and help create a good first impression on a potential customer.

As well as using parallelism within a single list, it often makes sense to create several lists that all match with one another. For instance, on the home page of my Blogger’s Guides website (where I sell premium ebooks) each Guide is summarised in five bullet points, and each bullet point starts with a verb (construct, write, produce, revise, develop).

Your readers may not notice that one product has four bullet points, one has five and another has six. They might not realise you’re only using parallelism within individual lists, and not to tie all your lists together.

But even if they can’t quite explain it, they’ll probably get a sense there’s something not quite right about your blog post or sales page. And that’s definitely not what you want.

Parallelism is a simple trick, and quite possibly one you’re already using. But if you’re not, or you’re not paying conscious attention to it, try revising a recent post or a key page on your blog to incorporate it.

By making your list items match one another your writing will read more smoothly, adding that extra little bit of polish to your blog posts and (even more importantly) your sales pages.

Ali Luke is the author of the Blogger’s Guides, a set of value-packed ebooks that are on sale until Friday 1st March for just $20 (instead of the usual $60): that gets you all four ebooks plus various bonuses, as well as all future updates. You can find out more and get your hands on a great bargain here.


Image Credit: Emma Matthews

About Ali Luke
Ali Luke blogs about the art, craft and business of writing at Aliventures. She has two free ebooks on blogging, Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger and Ten Easy Ways to Attract Readers to Your Blog … And Keep Them There: to get your copies of those, just sign up for her weekly e-newsletter (also free!) here.

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