Bullet slides need consistency and balance

19 November 2013

When you use lists in writing, each item must have a parallel grammatical form.  Readers expect this.  The same  rule applies to presentation slides, often containing bullet lists, but this consistency is sometimes overlooked.  I often need to correct this aspect when I restyle or translate a customer’s presentation.

Here is an example:

It may look nice aesthetically, but the text in the bullets does not work.

How can you tell? Check that the beginning of the sentence (before the bullet list, in this case “The companies need to”)  matches gramatically with each one of the endings in the list.

In this case, none of the three endings match the beginning of the phrase. This is a no-no in slides with bullet lists.

If you remove the “to” in the phrase before the bullet list, things are better:

The companies need:

  • Optimization management
  • Better business processes
  • Help to grow

In other cases, you often see lists like this (a bit exaggerated to make the point):

  1. Open the door
  2. Walking in the room
  3. Applause

The first item starts with a verb in one tense, the second item has a verb in another tense, and the third is a noun.  All three should have the same grammatical structure and use the same tense, if a verb is at the beginning.

A better list would be:

  1. Open the door
  2. Walk in the room
  3. Applaud

So, check your lists to make sure the grammar is correct and the list is balanced.

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