Use Bullet Points for Readability in Emails

Format your emails with bullets for better legibility

Cropped hand of businessman writing on adhesive note
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People who spend a large part of their day reading email on a screen tend to glance at the text and skip large portions of it.

However, if you give those readers something to stumble on in an email, they are drawn to the few words that form the stumbling block. Bullet points and numbered lists of short text entries that are set apart from the rest of the email by blank lines draw the reader's attention.

Using bullet points can make your emails easier to read and — more importantly — ensure the key points are noticed.

Bullet Points Attract Attention

So, bullet points and numbered lists make it easy for readers to:

  • Skip most of your email's text
  • Still get the important bits

You cannot turn everything into a list of bullet points, of course, but you should try to use them in your email messages whenever it makes sense.

How to Insert Bullet Points in HTML Email

Most popular email programs are equipped to handle HTML. You can use bold and italic type, change fonts and font sizes, underline, align text, and make use of bullets and numbered lists. In general, to make a bulleted list if your email program or service supports sending messages formatted using HTML, you typically:

  1. Open a new email screen and enter the recipient's name and a subject line. Begin typing the message as usual.

  2. Click the Insert bulleted list icon in the composition toolbar. In some email programs, it is located at the top of the screen, and in others, it is located at the bottom of the compose window.

    Selecting the Insert Bulleted List icon
  3. Next to the bullet that appears, type your content and select Enter (or Return on some keyboards). The cursor moves to the next line and inserts a new bullet.

    Typing a series of bullet points in an email
  4. Continue entering text and selecting Enter until you have entered all your bulleted points.

    A bulleted list in an email
  5. To make a sub-list press Enter and then Tab.

    Adding a sublist to a bulleted list
  6. After the return following the last bullet, click or press Enter to clear the bullet format. Continue with the text of your email.

Adding a blank line before and after a bulleted list makes it stand out.

How to Insert Bullet Points in Plain Text Email

To make a bulleted list using plain text in an email:

  1. Start the list in a paragraph of its own, separated from the paragraph before it by an empty line.

  2. Use an asterisk followed by a space to denote a new point and press Return (or Enter) after each bullet point.

    Creating a bulleted list in plain text
  3. To add a sub list, press Tab before entering the asterisk.