To draw visual attention to items in a list without implying that items go in a certain order (e.g., chronology, importance, priority), use a bulleted list.

Use a numbered list if you want to display items in a numbered series. Use a lettered list if you want to emphasize separate parallel items within a sentence.

To create a bulleted list, use the bulleted list function of your word-processing program. This will automatically indent the list as well. Symbols such as small circles, squares, dashes, and so forth may be used for the bullets.

Bulleted lists are covered in Section 6.52 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

Items that are complete sentences

If bulleted items are complete sentences, begin each item with a capital letter and finish it with a period or other appropriate punctuation. The following example demonstrates this format as well as how to include a citation for the information in the bulleted list.

Infants often display prosocial behavior—that is, behavior intended to help others—when interacting with their parents, as demonstrated in the following examples (Hammond & Drummond, 2019):

  • Infants are happy to participate in normal household chores, such as cleaning up.
  • Infants often display positive emotions when following parents’ behavioral requests, such as not touching the stove.
  • Infants will try to help others who seem like they need help with simple tasks, such as carrying multiple objects.

Items that are words or phrases

If bulleted items are words or phrases (but not complete sentences), begin each item with a lowercase letter (except words such as proper nouns).

There are two options for the punctuation of bulleted lists when the items are words or phrases. The following examples demonstrate both options as well as how to integrate in-text citations into bulleted lists.

The first option is to use no punctuation after the bulleted items (including the final one), which may be better when the items are shorter and simpler.

Poor sleep quality has been linked with the following symptoms:

  • higher levels of negative mood
  • physical symptoms such as insomnia
  • stress
  • use of medications
  • persistent psychological distress (Glozier et al., 2010; Lund et al., 2010)

The second option is to insert punctuation after the bulleted items as though the bullets were not there, which may be better when the items are longer or more complex.

Young adults have many motivations for texting on their smartphones:

  • social connection, in which people text as a way to connect with others;
  • escapism, in which people text to get away from dull or uncomfortable situations such as waiting in line; 
  • distraction, in which people text to distract themselves while having a conversation with someone or being in a meeting;
  • audacity, in which people text to get a response from someone, such as to break up with them or ask them on a date;
  • nurturing, in which people text to foster relationships by saying things like “good morning” or “I love you”; and
  • driving, in which people text while in their vehicle (Schroeder & Sims, 2018).

Further information about bulleted lists is available in the Publication Manual, including how to format lists of definitions in a glossary.

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Last updated: July 2022Date created: September 2019