In typography, a bullet ( • ) is a typographical symbol or glyph used to introduce items in a list. For example:
It is likely that the name originated from the resemblance of the traditional circular bullet symbol (•) to an actual bullet.
The bullet symbol may take any of a variety of shapes, such as circular, square, diamond, arrow, etc., and typical word processors, such as Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org Writer offer a wide selection of shapes and colours. Several regular symbols are conventionally used in plain text or ASCII-only text, such as * (asterisk), - (hyphen), . (period), and even o (lowercase O). Of course, when writing by hand, bullets may be drawn in any style.
Bullets are most often used in technical writing, reference works, notes and presentations. Bulleted items – known as "bullet points" – may be short phrases, single sentences, or of paragraph length. Bulleted items are not usually terminated with a full stop if they are not complete sentences, although it is a common practice (for example, in Portuguese) to terminate every item except the last one with a semicolon, and terminate the last item with a full stop. It is correct to terminate a bullet point with a full stop if the text under that bullet point consists of more than one sentence.
Some guidelines advocate using a bulleted list only where the list items are unordered (that is, where they could be reordered without losing the sense). Where order is significant, a numbered list is preferred.
Computer encoding and keyboard entry
The standard circular bullet symbol (•) is at Unicode code point U+2022. In HTML, it may (when not inserted directly) be entered as • or •. However, semantics normally requires that bulleted items be achieved with the appropriate use of the <li> tag inside an unordered list (<ul>). Unicode also defines a triangular bullet ‣ (U+2023) and a "white bullet" ◦ (U+25E6), as well as other styles.
In the Windows-1252 encoding, the standard circular bullet character is at 149 (decimal). On most Windows systems, it can be entered as the Alt code Alt+0149 (press and hold Alt while typing 0149 on the numeric keypad). Alt+7 generates a • (midpoint – sometimes called period-centered – which is often used as a bullet point).
On Mac OS X, pressing Option+8 inserts a bullet, and pressing Shift+Option+9 inserts the similar interpunct (·).
GTK+ applications on Linux support the ISO 14755-conformant hex Unicode input system; hold Control and Shift while tapping U, then type 2022 and press Enter to insert a • or hold Control and Shift while tapping U, then type B7 and press ↵ Enter to insert a midpoint.
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