Bullet (typography)

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Punctuation

In typography, a bullet ( • ) is a typographical symbol or glyph used to introduce items in a list. For example:

  • Item 1
  • Item 2
  • Item 3

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.

Usage

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[citation needed] 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 &bull; or &#x2022;. 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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