How to Create a Bulleted List in InDesign
Creating a bulleted list
Creating a bullet list in InDesign is extremely easy. Let's see how we can do this. So beginning on the left-hand side no bullets at all, and we have applied bullets and all I have done to get the bullets is select the text and then comes the Control panel where we have these two icons Bulleted List and Numbered List. If you just click on this you get what you are given, but if you want to change the options hold-down the Alt key and click. Where you get to choose what sort of bullet character you want and various other options, in this case relevant to the appearance of what we have, I have invented it on the left by 14 points, and then I have added a First Line Indent that is negative for that same amount.
Now we can take it a step further than that, and we can apply a Character Style to the bullet character itself, so we automatically have the bullet character formatted in a different color or a different font or a different size or any other character attribute. So that's what I have done here additional to the previous version, I have applied the Bullet Character Style. So the Bullet Character Style in this context is making it red, it's also making the bullet character slightly bigger, and it's also shifting the bullet character up slightly from its position relative to the baseline.
Let's just go and take a look at the bullet character. So if I right-click on that we can see what we have, and this has the following attributes. In the Basic Character Formats everything is left blank except for the Font Style, so it's going to inherit all of the other character formats from the paragraph style that it's applied within with the one exception of the font style not being bold. And then in Advanced Character Formats you will see there is a modest amount of Baseline Shift.
If I remove this, watch very carefully, you'll see they will shift down a fraction, so I am just nudging that up just not even one point but just half a point, and then the third attribute is the color. Now in addition to that, I have also added some space before the first bullet. If we compare left and right we can see that this bullet list begins without any space before it, and I think you can definitely benefit from some so I have added 10 points of space just above the first bullet. Now let's move to the next page, and here is an issue that comes up if you're working with a Baseline Grid.
Now a Baseline Grid is an incremented grid to which the baselines of your type will lock. And if I press W to turn on my Guides and then come to my View options and turn on the Baseline Grid, we can see that the text on the left is aligned to that Baseline Grid, everything is nice and ordered, but the bullet list is not really standing out as well as it might do. So for that reason what I have done with the bullet list over here in the example on the right-hand side is I have removed the bullet paragraphs from the Baseline Grid.
When you're working with the Baseline Grid most of your text will be aligned to that grid, occasionally, and in this case specifically for the bullets some paragraphs will not. So to remove paragraphs from the Baseline Grid we need to make sure that this icon is clicked on or if we are applying this through a paragraph style it's in our Indents and Spacing options Align to Grid > None. Now we do need to make sure though that after the bullet list the body text reestablishes itself on the Baseline Grid, and that the spacing above and below the bullet list is equal.
Now in this case the grid increment is 13.5 points, and for that reason I have added above the first bullet item half of that amount 6.75 points and after the last bullet item half of that amount again 6.75 points. So, so long as there are an even number of lines in your bullet list, and you have half a line space above it and half a line space below it the rhythm of the Baseline Grid is easily reestablished after the bullet list.
Usually when you see a bullet list it is a hanging indent, i.e. as we have here the bullet character sticks out to the left of all the text which follows at each subsequent line is aligned under the first character. However, that's not the only way to do things some people prefer rather than to have a hanging indent instead to have just a regular space, or as I have here, an end space after the bullet.
So in this case, I have changed this option right here Text After, the default option for this is tab, but I have changed it to an en space. On the other hand if you want to emphasize, rather than deemphasize, the left axis what you can do is make the bullet characters hang out to the left of all of your text, and that involves indenting your body text, this is indented by 11 points, this is indented by 11 points, the bullet paragraphs themselves are indented by 11 points, but the first line is outdented or has a negative First Line Indent of 11 points.
So one final point I'd like to make about bullets, and that is that sometimes we need to split our bullet list. We have a fantastic feature that is in InDesign CS5 and above feature called Span Columns, and that's very useful if you have a headline that you want to span over multiple columns. Its converse is Split Columns, and that's what we see here where we have a bulleted list in a single column of text, but we want to split that column. So in order to make that happen we just select the text and up here is where we can split into 2, 3, or 4 sub columns, obviously I have gone into two.
So if I were to put this back to None, that's how things would look otherwise, but I am going to just split this into two, and that's how it looks. And of course this can be incorporated into a Paragraph Style. Span Columns, we see that Split Column into two Sub-columns. So there we have the nuts and bolts of formatting bullets as well as some design considerations for how you might format you bullet lists.
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