How To Write Checklists

How To Write Checklists

There are a​ number of​ strategic reasons for using checklists, a​ writing format which helps you make your point(s) by writing at​ least some of​ your document in​ lists, rather than all in​ standard paragraphs. For example, checklists may convey the idea that you have carefully analyzed a​ situation, that a​ sequence should be followed, or​ that you are a​ well-organized person.

In this article, I have a​ follow-up, in​ which we look at​ the creation of​ checklists.

How you create your checklist will depend on its type. in​ some cases, you will want readers to​ follow a​ sequence of​ steps; this is​ a​ sequential checklist. On the other hand, if​ it's just a​ list, like a​ shopping list, then it​ would be a​ non-sequential list.

If you write non-sequential checklists, use bullets or​ boxes to​ indicate a​ new line or​ new item, as​ in:
* something
* something else
* another thing again

One quick note about bullets: if​ you're printing and distributing the message, then you can use conventional bullet forms (usually a​ square or​ round dot, whether solid or​ hollow). if​ you're sending the message by email, use an​ asterisk because not all email programs handle bullets properly (something to​ do with ASCII characters).

If the steps must be taken in​ sequence, then you'll use numbers or​ letters as​ your bullets. And, if​ that sequence has several sub-steps within each step, you would follow convention by using these types of​ characters, in​ this order:
* Roman numeral;
* Capital letter;
* Standard (Arabic) number;
* Lower case letter.

For example:
I The Beginning
A. The first part of​ the Beginning
1. The first part of​ the first part
a) and so on.

Indentations are helpful when working with highly structured checklists, like these. They show at​ a​ glance the importance of​ each component in​ the list.

A couple of​ other types of​ checklist might also be considered -- flowcharts and mind-maps. a​ flow-chart means a​ series of​ boxes illustrating the linear steps in​ a​ process. These are especially helpful if​ the checklist includes decision points. For example, "If the computer starts, do this" or​ "If the computer DOES NOT start, do that."

A mind-map refers to​ a​ number of​ boxes with interconnecting lines (not necessarily in​ a​ sequence, but perhaps showing interrelationships). in​ this case, the idea is​ to​ show how different aspects of​ the same issue connect with each other.

One final thought: outliners, whether stand-alone or​ in​ word processors can provide checklists, along with appropriate indentations. if​ the content fits the checklist format, an​ outliner may help you create one quickly and easily.

How To Write Checklists

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