Why Bullet Points in MS PowerPoint Do Not Work

Samples of Bad Bulleted List in Presentations

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Too much text can be confusing. Remedy:  Use keywords and concepts What do you mean?  Remedy:  Use meaningful wordsToo much bullet is too much trouble.  Remedy:  Organize and categorize the items firstTypos are not good.  Remedy:  Do a spell CheckImproper Layout.  Remedy:  Make sure the bulleted points are easily seen in the presentationBullets are not legible in the presentation.  Remedy:  Use color combinations with high contrast so that the bullets are easy to read
Too much text can be confusing. Remedy:  Use keywords and concepts
Too much text can be confusing. Remedy: Use keywords and concepts | Source
What do you mean?  Remedy:  Use meaningful words
What do you mean? Remedy: Use meaningful words | Source
Too much bullet is too much trouble.  Remedy:  Organize and categorize the items first
Too much bullet is too much trouble. Remedy: Organize and categorize the items first | Source
Typos are not good.  Remedy:  Do a spell Check
Typos are not good. Remedy: Do a spell Check | Source
Improper Layout.  Remedy:  Make sure the bulleted points are easily seen in the presentation
Improper Layout. Remedy: Make sure the bulleted points are easily seen in the presentation | Source
Bullets are not legible in the presentation.  Remedy:  Use color combinations with high contrast so that the bullets are easy to read
Bullets are not legible in the presentation. Remedy: Use color combinations with high contrast so that the bullets are easy to read | Source

Pitfalls in Presentations Using Bullet Points in MS PowerPOint

In most of the trainings and seminars I've attended, MS PowerPoint is the presentation medium of choice. Why not, this is a versatile application. Moreover, it is fairly easy to use. However, the ease of use does not necessarily translate to effective presentations. One commonly misused strategy in PowerPoint presentation is using ineffective bulleted list. Instead of making it easier for the audience to understand the topic, poor presentation design makes it harder.

1. Bulleted Paragraph

The whole idea of using bullets is to minimize the amount of words on the slide. Moreover, people use it to emphasize the key points. So it’s impractical to put a bullet before a gargantuan amount of text for the sake of turning it into a bullet point.

I know it’s easy to cut and paste blocks. But don’t be enticed to do this short cut. I won’t pay $100 for a seminar and have the speaker read to me. I can do that on my own for free.

Remedy:

  • Read the information first
  • Get only the main ideas
  • Choose only relevant information
  • Remember that less is more

Rule of 7 in a Nutshell

The rule of & states that each slide should not have more than 7 lines and each line should not have more than 7 words each.

Of course this is easier said than done. Likewise, this is just a suggestion and NOT a do or die rule.

2. Senseless MS PowerPoint Bulleted List

I once walked in a presentation that had the bulleted item: “shave egg”. What?! Whose egg will I shave? I had to ask the person beside if I were in the wrong seminar. Of course the bulleted point may be relevant for the speaker. But it definitely did not make sense to me. Some experts preach the use of the Rule of 7 (and some other variant of this). But limiting the words necessitates picking the right for per bullet point.

Remedy:

  • Choose meaningful words related to your topic
  • Have someone read the list back to you
  • If it summarizes then it is good; if it confuses it’s bad.

A Challenge To All

These are just a few of the problems we encounter with bulleted lists in presentations. These are easy to spot and are too common. Whether speakers or lecturers use MS PowerPoint or some other means, there are other problems that may arise. Let's correct them and start making presentations more meaningful and effective.

3. Typos On Your Bulleted List

For crying out loud, you only have a few words to write, make sure you write them properly. Moreover, if it’s spelled wrong, you’ll see a red underline. MS PowerPoint offers a spell check feature please use it. Don’t underestimate the power of F7. Typos in your presentation show that you did not take the time to edit them. It’s unprofessional and downright rude.

Remedy:

  • Use the spell check feature
  • Edit and proofread
  • Have someone check it for you

Recent presentation techniques have downplayed the role of bullets in presentations. For good reason – it’s not utilized properly. For the new (even the experienced ones) MS PowerPoint users out there, bulleted list can be an easy way to present information. But remember, easy does not necessarily mean effective.

Whether you're on the receiving end or the one presenting, A properly made bulleted list in MS PowerPoint can make your presentation more effective.

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Comments 11 comments

KBEvolve profile image

KBEvolve 4 years ago from United States

There is a lot of good advice here on how not to use bullet points in power point presentations, but I feel misled by the title. It gave me the impression that this would focus on why using bullets isn't a good strategy period.

So just like your #2, the title confused rather than summarized the content.


Jacob 4 years ago

I do a lot of presentations and sad to say I do a lot of what is written here. I new as a trainer and I do my own presentations. I notice that many are bored when I present. Hopefully I can become better after reading this article. Thanks for the tips.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines Author

Hello KBEvolve ,

The reasons enumerated above make bulleted lists in PowerPoint less effective. Thank you for visiting.


Schad 4 years ago

Oh yes, this is so true. I've been guilty of these especially number 1.

KBEvolve, titles and bullet points are two different things. They function differently.

Jacob, your PowerPoint is just one element. They way you present it is another important aspect. So even if your presentation is flawed, you can still tweak it with what you say.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines Author

Hello Schad,

Thank you for your insights and comments.


peterkua profile image

peterkua 4 years ago from Malaysia

Agreed. Bullet points don't work if you don't have a story to tell.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines Author

Hi peterkua.

Even if you have a story to share, one still has to put some thought in creating bullet points. Thanks for dropping by.


M.Orteza 4 years ago

I'm guilty on all counts! But come on, no one told us how to make a good presentation at the office. They simply shoved the job at us and expected to be the best. Your tips on how to make useful powerpoints is awesome.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines Author

Hi M.Orteza,

I know what you mean. that's why I wrote this hub so that more employees learn what not to do. Happy PowerPointing to you and your team.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

These are good tips for anyone starting off in PowerPoint. Thanks!


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines Author

Hi there SidKemp,

The truth is I still commit some of these mistakes. And I've been using PowerPoint for a long time now.

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