sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

How to Punctuate Subdivided Vertical Lists (CMOS) January 22, 2012

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 7:20 pm
Tags: , ,

Bookmark and Share

When you have lists that are subdivided (outlines), you indent each subsequent division.* You can use both numbers and letters. If you have any runover lines, align them with the first word in that sentence. For example:
Employment will be given based on the ability to fulfill the job role of each of the employment opportunities** below:

1. Stercorarius

a. Collect all human waste.
b. Cart it to the edge of town.
c. Sell it to farmers to use as fertilizer.

2. Gymnasiarch

a. Oil and scrape the athletes.
b. Tidy up after wrestling matches.
c. Beat misbehaving youths.

3. Funeral clown

a. Dress up as the person who has just died.
b. Run alongside the corpse with other clowns, cracking jokes.
c. Dance and mimic the dead person.

According to the CMOS, always use the tab bar (on the left of your keyboard) rather than the space bar to make the indentation.

For a much longer list, the punctuation changes, e.g.

I. Yucky food

II. Delicious food

A. Vegetables

    1. Green stuff
    2. Other colored stuff

B. Fruit

    1. Bitter fruit
    2. Sweet fruit

a)      Green and red

(1)    Foreign imports
(2)    Domestic

(a)    Tomatoes
(b)   Apples

i)                    Granny Smith
ii)                   Golden Delicious

b)      Etc. . . .

The top three levels are set off by periods.
Every group is given one additional indent.
Each division and subdivision should contain at least two items.

The great thing about subdivided vertical lists is that you will probably never have to use them . . . unless you are unfortunate enough to have to write school/college papers. If that disaster befalls you this list will be of no help, because this is how you puntuate according to the CMOS, which is not the style for a school paper. Use the APA guide instead, and the MLA guide if you are submitting an electronic file.

**Many thanks to listverse for the strange job descriptions!


Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                  Registered & Protected


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s