Punctuation in lists

Ordered and unordered list items should have no terminating punctuation marks, such as commas, semicolons, and full stops, except when all items in a list are complete sentences. This approach maximises re-usability.

Punctuation in lists is already a contentious issue, but content re-use with conditional publishing in DITA makes it a little more so.

Punctuation options for ordered and unordered lists include:

Some conventions include the word "and" at the end of the second last item.

Writing in a DITA environment, the context is removed from the content. This means that a list in the DITA source may not appear in the same sequence in the output. Some items might be removed by conditional publishing; for example, items relating to the administrator audience might be omitted from an output intended for novice users.

Because the second last item and the last item cannot be always identified, it is counter-productive to add "and" or different punctuation (eg, a full stop) at that point. (In other words, the second last and last items can't be treated as exceptions.)

List items should therefore have no closing punctuation, to maximise re-usability. An exception to this guideline is in the case of a list where all items are complete sentences.

In other cases, if considered necessary, a full stop can be added to the end of a list by the publishing process. For this approach to work, it is vital that all lists, including those with complete sentences, have no terminators.