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What's the deal with space before/after bullet points?

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  • What's the deal with space before/after bullet points?

    When you design a layout that has bullet points, how do you usually space them?

    For example, I have 10 pt text with 12 pt leading.

    * Do you add a line of normal leading above the bullets, like it's a new paragraph (like above)?

    * Do you add spacing before AND after bullets to make it easier to read? I had been using 1/2 of normal leading above and 1/2 of normal leading below (in this instance, 6 pt above and 6 pt below. The problem is, that creates more space than desired when the bullets start.

  • #2
    I do whatever looks best to the eye.


    • #3
      Originally posted by naydies
      I do whatever looks best to the eye.
      You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. --GWB


      • #4
        Yes it depends on how long your bullet list is, how long each bullet point is - if each one is over a line, I would have a larger space between than if each bullet were a word or two long.
        It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" – Winnie the Pooh


        • #5
          Buda, that's a very good point about the single word/line bullets vs. the multiple line bullets entries.

          It is an esthetic point of view, however, I agree with the other replies.

          I do have a couple of points though. To me, bulleted copy usually looks too openly leaded when there's a full paragraph space between bullet entries. Single line bullet entries seem to look best with no extra space between each bullet, maybe an equivalent to your other paragraph space before the first one and after the last one. Sometimes indenting these types of bulleted copy situations on the left and right helps as well.

          For multiple line bullet entries, I also prefer half the paragraph space between bullet entries, unless lines for each bullet point run to the equivalent of the other paragraphs that aren't bulleted. I think that's because bulleted entries always seem to look better to me, and stand out more as bulleted entries, if they're more tightly vertically spaced than the regular paragraphs are. However, the half paragraph space can wreak havoc on any multiple column cross-alignment you have going on, so you're going to have to choose how that would work out, and how much you're willing to fiddle with things. This is where snapping to the baseline grid can become your friend.
          "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!" - Ricky Ricardo


          • #6
            I normally put 2mm space between bullets with multiple lines in each bullet. But with bullets that only have 1 line, I just use regular single space.

            Why cant we do leading on forums??? Then I can show you what I mean...

            • point won
            • point too
            • point free
            • point for
            No space between each line

            • point won and lots of text
            that runs over a line about
            sample text blah blah blah.
            then 2mm space
            • point too and lots of text
            that runs over a line about
            sample text blah blah blah.
            then 2mm space
            • point free and lots of text
            that runs over a line about
            sample text blah blah blah.
            It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" – Winnie the Pooh


            • #7
              Also, I'm typically using bullets that are a few font sizes smaller than the text. I find some of the default bullets tend to be too heavy.
              Broke or just cheap? Read my list of free open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite software.


              • #8
                Agree, SurfPark, I usually create a character style for bullets to reduce the default size, and baseline shift it up to compensate.
                "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!" - Ricky Ricardo


                • #9
                  So I'm finally coming back to this thread because I'm doing another document with bullets that run over one line.

                  I have a two-column layout with 11 pt body text over 14 pt leading. So if I make my bullets have 7 pt leading between them, I find I have 7 pt + 14 pt after the last bullet, before the new paragraph.

                  Should I make the bullets 3.5 pt before and after to even the bulleted list out between paragraphs, or define a special paragraph style for the last bullet to not have extra leading after it? No designers I know ever had a good answer for this, surprisingly. I guess it's subjective to how much leading to use in these circumstances.


                  • #10
                    I usually make a separate paragraph style for the last bulleted item.
                    "Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!" - Ricky Ricardo


                    • #11
                      where i’m at, we work with the federal and state governments creating materials to educate folks from low-literacy levels (6th grade and below) all the way to multiple PhDs, basically beneficiaries of federal and state programs and then the folks who create those programs. we have a low-literacy expert who’s proficient in readability assessment, and we specialize in materials to reach this wide range of audiences. been doing it for years, our stuff gets picked up and recognized by our peers and others and is widely used (we ship over a million of these “tools” a year) so here’s what we know:

                      there doesn’t seem to be a “hard and fast” rule about how to do bullets. generally, to reach lower-literacy audiences (which equates to making things as easy to read as possible), bulleted lists are better than large blocks of text. what we’ve found is that a hanging indent does improve readability, by showing the alerting the reader that this new information needs to be remembered--retention is a big thing, obviously, because it’s a measure of the effectiveness of the piece. Often, we lead right into the list (with no space before) and keep the leading consistent. like you guys have said, a lot can change based upon your audience; obviously, you wouldn’t make the same document for a surgical resident that you’d make for a medicaid beneficiary. but, consistency is key for readability and in our experience, if maximum readability is key, keep the spacing and type sizes consistent. the bullets themselve will indicate that a new “important message” is about to be delivered, but altering the size appreciatively actually creates a stopping point for your lower-literacy level readers, and can actually cause them to stop reading or skip over the section entirely. often, at the end of our lists for these audiences, we do add in a hard return for beginning the next paragraph.

                      writing and designing for lower-literacy level audiences is a lot different than doing it for mainstream audiences, as you can see. a lot of the cool things we can do with type and layouts are immediately put aside in favor of maximum readability, because well, if they don’t read it then you really haven’t accomplished your mission. studies show that line art is the most effective way for example to illustrate a particular point, and clipped or feathered photos, where the background is all but dropped out, is really the only way bitmap images should be used. the background actually confuses a reader at this level, distracting them from the message you’re trying to convey.

                      it doesn’t mean you can't do good work or creative layouts and design, but the fundamentals become key. lock your layout to baseline so the wraps are consistent and not awkward, hang the indent on your bullets and favor a little more lead to “open” the layout up. use a different bullet for secondary points, and don’t use something odd for a bullet (think: clipart or a tiny point). clear and to the point. remember that a lot of people at this point, if they’re adults, are embarrassed or even angry that they don’t read well, and making our layouts “too flashy” or “whiz-bang” makes it harder for them, and makes it less likely for them to even try to read it, let alone come away with information that’s often very important for them to know. bullets are there for a reason, to sum up information that would take too long in copy form to explain, and to give the reader a list of important things to remember, direct points to consider and action items to take with them. if they don’t get that, it might be the fault of the writing, but it can just as easily (sometimes easier) be the layout’s fault as well.
                      Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the info. I may consider using a separate paragraph style for the last bullet point to adjust for leading to match better.

                        It is important to remain consistent and I hate using anything other than • or — for bullets. It starts to look cheesy if you use some funky little clip-art things.


                        • #13
                          no, i wouldn't do that either, the clip-art bullets. some are so ornate that they make it harder to differentiate the bulleted text. we use the block (zapf d "n") because its sheer size and physical presence are large enough to designate distinctively the beginning of the "bullet-point text". we try to discourage the use of the dash, except on displays (where the bullet points are short and few) because to some (again, lower-literacy audiences, et al.) it can look like a hyphen and will actually leave them looking for "the rest of that word."

                          so, we've used the square and round bullet, and if another level is needed (which is something else we shy away from), the hollow round bullet,

                          sometimes, we use a big smiley face.

                          ok, i made that last part up.
                          Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.


                          • #14
                            Oh no, not clip art bullets, but squares are cute. Sometimes a filled in circle just doesn't cut it.
                            It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" – Winnie the Pooh






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