Thursday, November 16, 2006

Periods or No Periods

I teach career development classes (I am a former corporate recruiter) and I am very, very confused! I was taught there are NO periods when doing bullets.

A bullet is a brief but accurate description of your job responsibilities-not a sentence-therefore, no periods with bullets! Why is it that you have periods with your bullets? Am I missing something, because it looks like poor grammar when one uses periods with bullets? -- Angela

Here’s my understanding of the standard punctuation rules for bullet point statements:

1. If the statement is a full sentence (with a subject and verb), one should place a period at the end of the statement. For example:
- I managed three companies while attaining my MBA from Harvard.
2. If a list of statements is introduced by a subject and verb, one should put a period at the end of each statement. For example:
I have the:
- Ability to boost morale even when half the company has been fired due to downsizing.
- Talent for reconciling the General Ledger with my eyes blindfolded.

One could argue that on a resume the subject and verb (e.g., “I managed” in #1, and “I have” in #2) that introduce the bullet statements are assumed and therefore it’s OK to place a period at the end of each bullet statement. On the other hand, one could argue that on a resume there is no subject and verb actually written just before the bullet points to introduce the list of statements, therefore there should be no period at the end of each statement. Your point, I believe, Angela.

To further confuse matters, the advertising industry has its own set of rules. In promotional pieces it is acceptable to use sentence fragments (e.g., Not so much!), incomplete questions (e.g., Got Milk?), and punctuation that works… just because it does what you want it to do (e.g., a period at the end of a phrase to make the reader realize that a thought as been completed).

I consider resumes promotional pieces that need to demonstrate good writing and presentation skills, much like a PowerPoint presentation. In the smallest amount of space one wants to present his or her sales points as powerfully as possible. Punctuation can help with that mission.

Using a period at the end of a bullet statement indicates that the statement has definitely ended. It just plain feels right to me. When I write a resume with a client, I ask my client how he or she feels about the period issue. We discuss it, make a decision, and proceed with either all periods or no periods. The key is consistency within a resume!

So here’s my official answer to your question:

You should use a period at the end of a statement if it feels right to you (or your client) and if it helps the reader understand what you have to say.

If putting a period at the end of a bullet statement goes against your grain, don’t do it.

Both ways are correct in my mind. The most important thing is to be consistent about how you use or don’t use punctuation throughout your document. Period.

Job Loungers, do you have a question? Email it to me and I’ll post your question and my answer here in The Job Lounge.

Or make a comment about this post by clicking the Comments link right below this post.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

For law, I am using periods for any description with a verb, but not at the end of each line, for instance, if just a line giving the name of the position and date