Clear Guide to APA Bulleted List Format

Bullet points in APA format have certain rules that you need to follow properly to maintain the sequence of the items in the list. Whether you use a bulleted or numbered list, they are excellent for drawing visual attention to listed items and emphasizing items in a series.

Each of these lists is used to communicate your ideas better and make your writing more readable to the audience. This article will teach you about the rules and design elements of different APA style lists.

Why Are Bullet Points Important in Writing?

Bullets are a great way to break up a long paragraph on a complicated topic where the reader might get confused or stop reading. Consolidating information into a bulleted list saves the reader time and requires less white space for better formatting.

Moreover, bullets are easier for us to see and comprehend. They are also easy for us to scan for important snippets of text. Finally, bullet points or numbered lists break up large amounts of text into manageable chunks to improve the readability of a text.

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Rules of Bullet Points in APA Format

You can list items in three different formats: lettered, numbered, and bulleted. The rules of bullet points are laid out in detail in the following:

Lettered List

Lettered lists are great for identifying elements in a series within a sentence or paragraph without breaking them into a bullet or numbered list. APA style format demands each element in a series be separated with a lowercase letter within parentheses. Also, there should be commas or semicolons between each item in the list.

Example of a lettered list:

People who have diabetes are suggested to (a) follow a healthy eating plan, (b) refrain from eating sweet beverages, and (c) go for a morning walk regularly.

Numbered List

For numbered lists, the APA style format calls for whole sentences, not phrases. You must list things vertically when an ordinal position is important. Numbered lists are helpful when you need to organize information such as the steps in a procedure.

Example of a numbered list:

We need to attend the meeting for three primary reasons:

  • Attendance is made mandatory by the authority.
  • Each department will be assigned new tasks.
  • Participation in office activities plays a role in the final evaluation.

Bulleted List

Bulleted lists are appropriate when presenting a list of elements in no particular sequence. Items in a bulleted list can be full sentences, phrases, or sentence fragments.

Use Word’s bulleted list feature to generate a list with bullets. The bullets may be represented by various symbols, including small circles, squares, dashes, and so forth. The list will also be automatically indented.

APA ruling for complete sentences, phrases, or words are as follows:

Items that are complete sentences

If the bulleted items are whole sentences, capitalize the first letter of each one and end it with a period or other suitable punctuation.


General diabetes patients must follow the advice below:

  • Check your blood sugar level every day before and after exercise.
  • Refrain from sugar-sweetened beverages which are high in calories.
  • Keep a regular exercise schedule as per your doctor’s suggestions.

Items that are words or phrases

When using words or phrases as bulleted items, start each one with a lowercase letter except for words that are proper nouns. When the items in a bulleted list are words or phrases, there are two ways to punctuate them.

Option 1: Don’t use any punctuation after the bulleted items, including the final item in the list. This way is preferable for short and simple items.


General advice for diabetes patients includes the following:

  • checking your blood sugar level every day
  • refraining from sugar-sweetened beverages
  • keeping a regular exercise schedule

Options 2: Insert punctuation after the bulleted items as if the bullets were not present. This option is better for longer and more complicated items.


General advice for diabetes patients includes the following:

  • checking your blood sugar level every day before and after exercise
  • refraining from sugar-sweetened beverages which are high in calories
  • keeping a regular exercise schedule as per the doctor’s suggestions.


This article is intended for English composition students and educators in need of an overview of bullet points in APA format. It covers why bullet points are important and the rules that apply in an APA paper.

It also provides an overview of the different types of lists you could use in an APA format. Hope you find this article helpful!

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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