The bullet summary block aids navigation with bullet-marks. When you’re looking for an idea, you can quickly jump point to point. Your eye can easily locate the bullet-mark, starting the next idea.
The block reveals structure with indentation. Indented bullet-points can show you where minor points are, or ideas that are grouped by some theme.
Finally, the block eases refactoring with linear form. Since bullet-points generally occupy one line, they are easily cut and paste in editors.
Not everybody agrees with using bullet-points.
Visual:EdwardTufte appears to think that the bullet-point form is a curse on visual communication. Some people consider the bullet-point form to be evidence that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Some people just prefer plain straight text.
We have identified two forms of the BulletSummaryBlock:
Invoking summaries “invoke” the most important points of a short to mid-sized text with a very small block.
Consolidating summaries “consolidate” the entirety of a medium to long text.
Character of the Invoking form:
The Invoking form features independent points. You don’t have to read the points in any particular order. If you start at the bottom, or skip around, it’ll still make sense to you. The idea is that you can scan easier if you don’t have to read things that came before.
The Invoking form features parallel structure. That is, the language used is similar from point to point. You’re not reading a bunch of recommendations, and suddenly face a question. You don’t read a bunch of short lines, and suddenly face a long one. You don’t read “Roses are Red,” “Violets are Blue,” and then suddenly read “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously!” The idea is that you can scan it easier if you don’t have to wrap your brain around language.
The Invoking form is concise. The shorter the text is, the easier you can scan it and remember it. Your mind can attach a lot of meaning to a small pattern. An author using the Invoking form takes advantage of this to help you scan through their main ideas, and remember them.
The Invoking form uses no conjunctions- conjunctions are words like “because,” “thus,” and “but.” Those are signs that you are carrying an argument from your text into your summary. The Invoking form is not used to argue- only to relay the key points of an argument.
If you must present items in an order, (for example, a number of steps in a procedure,) use numbers instead of bullet-marks.
Finally, the Invoking form, when it uses indented bullet-points, places categories high and points low. The categories are left-most indented, and divide groups of points, which are right-most indented. The name of a category can be a simple noun (“Advantages:”), or an opening phrase (“Bullet-points are useful for…”). The points, to the right, then feature parallel structure. Avoid making points in the left-most level, because that would break the parallel structure.
Character of the Consolidating form:
The Consolidating form is chronological. It is made to be read from top to bottom. It is a map of the text it summarises. This is so that you can navigate the original text by way of the summary.
The Consolidating form is readable alone. You should be able to read the summary, and have a basic idea of what was said in the full text. This is so that you can reactivate all of the ideas in the full text by reading the summary alone.
The Consolidating form is hierarchical. The author can tell you what he or she thought important or unimportant, by way of indenting the bullet points. This is to communicate priorities explicitely.
The Invoking form is best used when your message is coherent. That is, your ideas are all working towards a specific focused end. As such, it tends to be used mid-argument.
The Consolidating is best used when your message is divergent. That is, your ideas are poking and prodding in various directions. As such, it tends to be used in longer, more exploratory messages.
:Refactoring Note: I’ve taken out the idea of ReworkingEconomy from the text. I have some ideas about that, which break our consensus on it.
One nice by-product of the Invoking form, is that its focus on short phrases lends itself to the production of a PatternLanguage.
Note that the consolidating block summarizes a full message, and that the invoking block summarizes a focused argument.