Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Lists.

Understanding Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 26, 2016)

There are two types of lists commonly used in printed material. The first is a bulleted list and the second is a numbered list. A bulleted list is a nothing but a list of individual items with a symbol to the left side of the first line of each item in the list. For example, the following is a bulleted list:

  • This is the first item in the list.
  • This is the second item in the list. There is more than one line in this item. Notice that the extra lines are aligned with the line above, not with the bullet or the text margin.
  • This is the third item in the list.
  • This is the fourth item in the list.

In the case of this bulleted list, the symbol used as the "bullet" is a small dot. A numbered list is a little bit different. It consists of a series of items, each with a sequential number in front of it. Numbered lists are used extensively in printed materials to describe a sequence of steps to be followed.

This usage points out the primary way you can decide which type of list to use. If you have a sequence of steps, which must be followed in order, then you should use a numbered list. If you have a group of items to which you want special treatment given, but they don't represent a series that must be followed in sequence, then you should use a bulleted list.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1394) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Lists.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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