How to Write a Summary With Bullet Points

How to Write a Summary With Bullet Points

If you're prepping for an important presentation or major test, there's a good chance your brain is full of all sorts of useful (and useless) information. And when the pressure's on, being able to quickly scan a main idea or topic you're covering is critical when delivering a speech in front of hundreds of people. Writing a summary with bullet points can serve a wide variety of purposes, from acting as visual aids or helping you summarize the material you need to know for a test.

1 Bullet-Point Basics

Bullet points are very similar to notes, which means you want to steer clear of complete sentences or long explanations. Instead, your headings should be brief summaries of learning goals or educational concepts. For example, if you're doing a presentation on philosophy, a section on ethics might be one heading. You can also have a section on logic or the origins of philosophy. The most important points should go under the heading as bullet points, and if they require more detail, you can indent farther and create a list of sub-bullet points related to the original ideas.

2 Ordering Bullet Points

Because each heading is a self-contained topic, you don't necessarily have to put your concepts in a specific order. If you're using bullets for note-taking purposes, you can order them thematically, chronologically or even according to difficulty -- whatever helps you study most effectively. When delivering a presentation, make sure your bullet points in the same order as your presentation. This will help the audience follow along.

3 Note-Taking

If you're taking notes using bullet points, try using only one side of your paper and double-spacing your notes. This gives you ample room to fill in concepts if you need to add more information. When in doubt, always include more information. You can use abbreviations to pack in more facts and figures. And if one of the topics is confusing, write a question in the margin. This will help remind you to ask for clarification later.

4 Presentations and Education

If you're giving a presentation with slides to a class or a group of colleagues, your bullet points should be short and concise. Use them to illustrate challenging concepts or give key vocabulary words rather than as narrative. Use your bullet points as a guide to help guide your presentation. Try to avoid reading from them or reiterating the information contained in them. Instead, use them as a starting point for expanding upon information and providing further details.

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.