• 3-minute read
  • 17th December 2016

Bullet Points and Numbered Lists in Microsoft Word

Although most of an academic paper should be written with full sentences divided up into paragraphs, bullet points and numbered lists can be useful in some contexts. For instance, vertical lists are particularly useful when giving examples or reporting steps in a process.

Microsoft Word also makes adding lists to a document reassuringly simple. All you need to do is follow the instructions below.

Using Bullet Points in an Essay

Bullet points are useful when listing things non-sequentially (i.e., when there is no specific order in which the items involved should be listed). They should also be reserved for longer lists, as short lists of up to three or four items can be included in the main text.

To add a bullet pointed list to a document in Microsoft Word 2007 or later, simply:

  1. Place the cursor where you want the list to begin
  2. Go to “Paragraph” under the “Home” tab on the main ribbon

    "Paragraph" options.
    “Paragraph” options.
  3. Click the “Bullets” button to begin a list (you can select the type of bullet point you want by using the arrow to open a new menu)
  4. Type the first entry in your list, hitting “Enter” to start the next one

To end your list, hit “Enter” twice after the final item. You can even customize your bullet points with an image of your choosing for a little extra color. We like using eagles, but we admit that this probably isn’t appropriate for most academic documents.

If you disagree, an eagle will swoop from the sky and "correct" you.
Disagree and an eagle will swoop down to “correct” you.

Using Numbered Lists

Numbered lists are appropriate when listing items sequentially or in order of importance. The process for adding a numbered list to a document is similar to adding a bulleted list:

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  1. Select where you want to begin your list
  2. Go to the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” tab
  3. Click the “Numbering” button (you can select a numbering style from the dropdown menu by clicking the arrow)

    The "Numbering" options.
    The “Numbering” options.
  4. Type your first entry, then hit “Enter” to create the next one

As with bulleted lists, you end a numbered list by hitting “Enter” twice after the final item. For more control over the style, select “Define New Number Format” in the numbering menu.

Using Multilevel Lists

Finally, if you really want to push the boat out, you can use a “Multilevel” list. This is useful if you want to include sub-lists within a main list, like in the following:

A multilevel list.
A multilevel list.

To add a list like this to your document, you’ll have to:

  1. Select a list style under “Multilevel List” in the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” tab

    Multilevel list options.
    Multilevel list options.
  2. Write out your list as normal, beginning each item on a new line
  3. To adjust the “level” of any given point, simply open the “Multilevel List” menu and select the appropriate option from the “Change List Level” submenu

    Changing list level.
    Changing list level.

As with the other lists discussed here, you can customize the style of multilevel lists by selecting “Define New Multilevel List” from the menu. This will open a new window where you can modify each level of your chosen list style as required.

Editing a multilevel list.
Editing a multilevel list.

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