Article title plus brief animation of three bullet points morphing to three columns
Article title plus brief animation of three bullet points morphing to three columns

Try horizontal lists instead of bullets

Next time you find yourself typing a bulleted list, try this format instead: arrange them as a horizontal list.

An animation showing five bullet points morphing into five columns

Why is this better?

  1. Easier to read: scanning long lines across the whole width of the page is hard – this is why newspapers use columns.
  2. More impact: using a style that isn’t plain lines of text provides some extra visual stimulus, so they are more likely to take notice – and remember
  3. Easier to count: in the example above, the reader can see almost subconsciously that there are 5 parts to the list.

Creating this is simple

You could just draw five text boxes. But a simple 1-row table is better. It will automatically handle the alignment, and if you want to add or delete items resizing the width is very simple. And to make sure the items don’t run into each other, increase the right-hand cell margin to create some white space.

A screen recording GIF of building and formatting a one-row table to hold the five example points.

You could create a 2-row table, where the item ‘header’ sits in the first row, and the ‘content’ in the second row. 

Formatting flourishes

In this format, you can think of each item as being a ‘card’. Here are suggestions for adding some visual design to these cards:

Add an icon to each item. Above or alongside the heading.
‘Underline’ the heading using a thick table border
Use a coloured background to make them start to look like cards. With a table, you can apply a very thick white cell border to provide a gap between the cards.
Draw a border around the whole ‘card’. A pale grey is best here, and you could apply a very subtle drop shadow.
An animation cycling through examples of the four formatting styles mentioned above.

Note: in some of these options, we have inserted a narrow, empty column in between each item to help space them out.

Don’t squeeze too much in

Depending on your font size, you can probably fit up to six items across the page before they get too narrow. If you have more items than this, just break into two rows. Put an empty row in between them to provide you with some spacing.

An example of a list of eight items, shown as two rows of four.

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March 26, 2021

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