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More APA Style Guidelines: Lists

Lists

When listing three or more items, include a serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma) before the last item and the conjunction “and” or “or.” If one or more clauses contains commas in them, use a semicolon instead of a comma to separate the clauses. (Note that the term "seriation" used in APA 6 does not appear in APA 7 and has been replaced by "lists.”)

You may also list items in three other formats: lettered, numbered, and bulleted.

 

Lettered Lists (APA 7, Section 6.50)

If you have a series of elements in the body of a paragraph, separate each element with lowercase letters enclosed in parentheses. Although only necessary for more complex elements, here is a simple example: (a) lions, (b) tigers, and (c) bears. Items and phrasing should be parallel.

 

Numbered Lists (APA 7, Section 6.51)

When ordinal position is important, list items vertically.

The organization’s emergency management protocol consists of seven sequential steps:

  1. Step 1 involves ...
  2. Step 2 consists of …
  3. Step 3 has five components: ...

This would be appropriate when you need to show a specific order of elements, such as in steps in a procedure or conclusions.

List items should be complete sentences or paragraphs in a series (not phrases).

Use Microsoft Word’s numbered list function to create the list; select the option with Arabic numerals (not enclosed within parentheses) followed by a period. Capitalize the first word after the number and the first word of any subsequent sentence. End each sentence with appropriate final punctuation. List items should be double-spaced and indented .5 inch.

 

Bulleted Lists (APA 7, Section 6.52)

Bulleted lists are appropriate when presenting a list of items in no particular order. Bulleted list items can be complete sentences or phrases or sentence fragments. Use Word’s bulleted list function to create the list. List items should be double-spaced and indented .5 inch.

If complete sentences, begin each list item with a capital letter as you would a regular sentence and insert final punctuation (usually a period) at the end of each list item.

Recommendations for improving patient safety at the facility include the following:

  • Install adequate lighting and ventilation in wards, patient rooms, and other areas.
  • Incorporate regular training and drills to promote staff awareness of safety procedures.
  • Regularly solicit staff and patient and family feedback using an outside firm.

If phrases or sentence fragments, begin each list item with a lowercase letter.

 

In APA 7, you have two options for punctuating bulleted phrases: to include no punctuation after each list item and after the last list item or to include commas or semicolons, as appropriate, after each list item and final punctuation at the end of the list. (Note that APA 6 only recommended the option to punctuate lists with commas or semicolons.)

The first option may be better for shorter, less complex lists.

Recommendations for improving patient safety at the facility include the following:

  • installing adequate lighting and ventilation
  • incorporating regular training and drills
  • regularly soliciting staff and patient and family feedback

The second option may be better for longer, more complex lists.

Recommendations for improving patient safety at the facility include the following:

  • installing adequate lighting and ventilation in wards, patient rooms, and other areas;
  • incorporating regular training and drills to promote staff awareness of safety procedures; and
  • regularly soliciting staff and patient and family feedback using an outside firm.