How to write a lead-in line for a bulleted list

A vertical, bulleted list marks an excellent way to summarize information and present it in a reader-friendly format. An important element of the bulleted list is the lead-in line.

A lead-in line is phrase, clause or sentence that introduces a vertical, bulleted list. It typically appears after the headline and immediately before the first bullet point. For example, if your bulleted list were about the five types of conflict that are used in fiction, the lead-in line might read Authors can use any of five conflicts in a story:

Follow three simple guidelines whenever using lead-in lines. First, a lead-in line always gives an overview of what the list is about. Secondly, the lead-in need not be a complete sentence; in fact, it usually isn’t. Lastly, always punctuate the lead-in line with a colon, even if it is a complete sentence. An example of these three guidelines would be…

Every story consists of five elements:
• Plot
• Setting
• Character
• Point of view
• Theme

Bulleted lists with lead-in lines often appear in nonfiction books and on blogs. An upcoming entry will examine how to handle the bulleted items in such a list.