Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Lists.

Understanding Lists

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 18, 2017)


There are two types of lists commonly used in printed material. The first is a bulleted list and the second is a numbered list. A bulleted list is a nothing but a list of individual items with a symbol to the left side of the first line of each item in the list. For example, the following is a bulleted list:

  • This is the first item in the list.
  • This is the second item in the list. There is more than one line in this item. Notice that the extra lines are aligned with the line above, not with the bullet or the text margin.
  • This is the third item in the list.
  • This is the fourth item in the list.

In the case of this bulleted list, the symbol used as the "bullet" is a small dot. A numbered list is a little bit different. It consists of a series of items, each with a sequential number in front of it. Numbered lists are used extensively in printed materials to describe a sequence of steps to be followed.

This usage points out the primary way you can decide which type of list to use. If you have a sequence of steps, which must be followed in order, then you should use a numbered list. If you have a group of items to which you want special treatment given, but they don't represent a series that must be followed in sequence, then you should use a bulleted list.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (11592) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Lists.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 5 + 9?

2017-01-18 17:16:21


The bullet colour is controlled by the invisible marker at the end of the paragraph - double-click the bullet text to select the whole bullet paragraph and then select the text colour you want for the bullet symbol. If you want any or all of the text in a colour different from the bullet then drag select the text and apply the required text colour

2017-01-18 14:20:02

Don Mattocks

This is a great tip, but I have a bulleted list where the text needs to be in different color fonts. How do I control the color of the bullets?

2017-01-18 09:29:23

m jenkins

And I find it helpful that the bullet symbol may be changed to whatever may be useful, for your particular list, to draw attention to your items, such as a pointing finger, a check mark, or a star. Works great for posting notices. Just use the Bullet Library which opens when you click on the bulleted list icon on the ribbon. You can Define a New Bullet here also.

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