What is the effect of beginning the essay with four bulleted statements?

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stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I would hesitate to begin an essay with bulleted statements. The purpose of writing an essay is generally to present your opinion or interpretation concerning a topic. The most appropriate way to begin most essays is to present a thesis statement summarizing your position regarding the subject matter. You might add a few sentences to your introductory paragraph to give a preview of the supportive evidence you will be presenting in more detail through the body of your essay.

If you wish to bullet the important points of your support in the body of your essay, that could be used to emphasize the differences between them. I do not think beginning with bulleted statements would give your reading audience adequate background understanding of your thesis topic.

chsmith1957's profile pic

chsmith1957 | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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My immediate reaction is that your essay will look more like a PowerPoint presentation than a fully-developed written work if it begins with a bulleted list. Perhaps this is your intention. Or perhaps you’ve been asked to do both assignments: to write the essay, and also to do a classroom presentation on the subject. If this is true, then inserting a bulleted list on the first page may help you in organizing the key points that you want to cover in both versions of the narrative, written and oral.

However, you must first open with a paragraph of at least a few sentences in length. It should include your thesis statement and a general introduction to the topic. Then, if you’re quite attached to the list model, you can write, for example: “I intend to show that this theory is not the case, because ….” followed by your bullets. You could achieve the same effect with either a numbered, lettered or unnumbered sequence of phrases after the word “because,” separated by semi-colons. Such as: “I intend to show that this theory is not the case, because this team has won all of its games this year; it has a high reputation for training award-winning athletes in the sport; and its closest competitor in the league is ranked ten points behind in the standings.” If the phrases are lettered or numbered, then the style becomes: “… because (a) this team has won …. (b) it has a high reputation …,” etc. This is a premise used only for example.

No matter whether you use a bulleted list or a running stream of phrases, please be sure to make the elements congruent. They must be styled similarly. In my example above, I used what could be complete sentences, beginning with the words “the team” and “it” and “its.” The latter two referred to the first word or concept, “the team.” Use either complete sentences, or phrases that start with verbs that all use the same tense. A basic example of a bulleted list with such verb-based phrases follows.

My cat

  • Loves to sleep on my bed.
  • Gets me up at 5 a.m. every morning.
  • Plays with the caps from plastic milk jugs on our wood floors.
  • Is a wonderful companion for me to come home to.

Notice that the words in a running stream of the narrative are not capitalized, while in a bulleted list, you can choose to either capitalize the first letters or not. I like the capitals. I also prefer to treat the bullets as sentences and to end each one with a period. But again, you must be consistent. Your correct format will show your readers or listeners that you understand how to style your work, and that you will proceed to make your case in an organized fashion. If your styling is haphazard, your points and conclusion may easily become haphazard, too. Good luck!

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