Types of lists you can create for your book

Among the best ways to convey information in your nonfiction book is through a list. Lists are easy for readers to scan, and later when needing to recall key takeaways, they can be found quickly.

Lists generally can be broken into two types – run-in or vertical – based on the way they appear in your text.

run-in list is part of the paragraph rather than separated from it. This usually is a good technique if you have three items in your list. If the items consist of a single word, commas can separate them; if the items consist of phrases, a colon introduces the list while a semicolon is used between items. For example:

The five elements of a story are plot, setting, characters, point of view, and theme.

The five elements of a story are: what happens; when and where it takes place; who is involved with what happens; the perspective from which the events are narrated; and the message or moral.

One kind of run-in list is a numbered list, in which items are separated by numbering them. The numbers are placed in parenthesis. It follows the same aforementioned comma/semicolon rule:

Five types of conflict are: (1) man vs. nature; (2) man vs. man; (3) man vs. society; (4) man vs. God(s); and (5) man vs. himself.

vertical list separates the points from the sentence and presents in a bulleted format. For example…

The five elements of a story are:
• Plot – What happens
• Setting – When and where it takes place
• Character – Who is involved with what happens
• Point of view – Perspective from which the events are narrated
• Theme – Message or moral of what happened

Once a list is given, you then can elaborate on each item via paragraphs if needed. In such cases, the list essentially introduces a section’s major concepts or supporting points for a statement.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.