Answered By: Jonathan Faerber
Last Updated: Jan 04, 2020     Views: 65660

APA 6th Edition (Scroll down for 7th Edition)

Bulleted and numbered lists are permitted by the APA Style rules; however, if you're unsure if your instructor will permit them in your assignment, please check with your instructor. See below for information regarding formatting lists.

Bulleted lists

The capitalization and punctuation for each bulleted item depends on the structure of the sentence. If the bulleted text is a full sentence, capitalize the first letter of the first word and end the paragraph with a period (see "Lists, Part 5: Bulleted Lists" in the APA Style Blog). For example:

  • This is a sentence.
  • This is another sentence.
  • This is the last sentence of the bulleted list.

When a bulleted list separates three or more elements within a sentence, “capitalize and punctuate the list as if it were a complete sentence” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 64). For example:

In December 2018, British Columbia had an extreme storm that caused:

  • massive damage due to high winds,
  • widespread power outages that lasted many days, and
  • flooded roads.

For other examples of bulleted lists, see "Lists, Part 5: Bulleted Lists" in the APA Style Blog.

Numbered lists

Numbered lists are helpful to identify the organization of information, such as "itemized conclusions or steps in a procedure" (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 63). Numbered paragraphs should be

identified by an Arabic numeral followed by a period but not enclosed in or followed by parentheses. Separate sentences in a series are also identified by an Arabic numeral followed by a period; the first word is capitalized, and the sentence ends with a period or correct punctuation. (p. 63)

Please keep in mind that "the use of 'numbered lists' may connote an unwanted or unwarranted ordinal position (e.g. chronology, importance, priority) among the items" (p. 64). To avoid this suggestion of position, use a bulleted list instead. For more information on numbered lists, see "Lists, Part 4: Numbered Lists" in the APA Style Blog.

Lettered lists within a sentence

Lettered lists within a sentence are a good way to identify elements in a series within a paragraph or sentence without breaking the elements into a numbered or bulleted list. To indicate the list, use lowercase letters in parentheses (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 64). For example, "students were asked to choose between completing (a) a formal research essay, (b) a documentary-style video, (c) a multi-media experience that involves participants". To punctuate a lettered list within a sentence, "use commas to separate three or more elements that do not have internal commas; use semicolons to separate three or more elements that have internal commas" (p. 64).

For more information on using lists in writing, please see the APA Style Blog's six-part series of posts that starts with "Lists Part 1: Parallelism".

Reference

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

APA 7th Edition

Bulleted and numbered lists are permitted by the APA Style rules; however, if you're unsure if your instructor will permit them in your assignment, please check with your instructor. Keep in mind that because bulleted or numbered lists only provide surface-level information rather than include analysis, and because the focus of academic writing is to demonstrate your critical thinking, these lists are used sparingly in formal academic writing in favor of communicating your ideas in complete sentences and paragraphs. See below for information regarding formatting lists.

Bulleted lists

The capitalization and punctuation for each bulleted item depends on whether the items form sentences or sentence parts. If the bulleted text is a full sentence, capitalize the first letter of the first word and end the paragraph with a period. For example:

  • This is a sentence.
  • This is another sentence.
  • This is the last sentence of the bulleted list.

When a bulleted list separates three or more elements within a sentence, “begin each bulleted item with a lowercase letter” and either punctuate each item in the list as parts of a sentence (e.g., inserting commas), or exclude punctuation after each item (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, pp. 190-191). For example:

In December 2018, British Columbia had an extreme storm that caused:

  • massive damage due to high winds,
  • widespread power outages that lasted many days, and
  • flooded roads.

This storm affected multiple areas on Vancouver Island, including:

  • Nanaimo
  • Duncan
  • Ladysmith
  • Victoria

For other examples of bulleted lists, see Bulleted Lists in the APA Style Blog. For an explanation of the difference between a complete sentence and its parts, please see Sentences and Sentence Elements on the Writing Centre website.

Numbered lists

Numbered lists are helpful to identify the organization of information, such as "itemized conclusions” or “steps in a procedure" (APA, 2020, p. 190). Keep the following steps when creating a number list:

  1. Create the numbered list using the numbered list function on Microsoft Word or similar program.
  2. Set off Arabic numerals at the beginning of each item with a period rather than parentheses (i.e., “2.” rather than “(2)” or “2)”)
  3. Begin each item in the numbered list with a capital letter, and follow appropriate sentence punctuation throughout the list, using end marks like periods, exclamation, or question marks where required.

Please keep in mind that "the use of 'numbered lists' may connote an unwanted or unwarranted ordinal position (e.g. chronology, importance, priority) among the items" (APA, 2020, p. 190). To avoid this suggestion of position, use a bulleted list instead. For more information on numbered lists, see Numbered Lists in the APA Style Blog.

Lettered lists within a sentence

Lettered lists within a sentence are a good way to identify elements in a series within a paragraph or sentence without breaking the elements into a numbered or bulleted list. To indicate the list, use lowercase letters in parentheses (American Psychological Association, 2020, p. 189). For example, "students were asked to choose between completing (a) a formal research essay, (b) a documentary-style video, (c) a multi-media experience that involves participants". To punctuate a lettered list within a sentence, use commas between each of three or more items, or use semicolons when separating items that include commas, such as a series of phrases (APA, 2020, p.189). See Lettered Lists from the APA Style Blog for more information and examples.

Reference

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000