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Using HTML Lists

People really like lists. Everywhere you look, you see lists. Here are three reasons why lists are a good thing — in a list, of course:

  • Lists are interesting to look at. Web pros are always telling people to use lots of white space to vary the appearance of their pages so they’re not just featureless blobs of text. Lists do this; they break up text.
  • Lists are easy to scan. People are more likely to scan text on the Web than to read it carefully. Lists are very easy to scan. With the key points highlighted, people can go in depth by carefully reading the points that interest them, and then skim the ones that don’t.
  • Lists make the writer get to the point. When you write a list, you have to cut and condense what you’re trying to say. You may end up editing a page of boring, monotonous text down to three or four points in a half-page bulleted list.

HTML and Web page editing programs based on HTML offer three kinds of lists, but only two are used much.

  • Bulleted lists: Bulleted lists are by far the most widely used kind of list on the Web. You start a bulleted list with the <ul> tag, which stands for unordered list. You end it with the </ul> tag. Each list item is preceded with <li>, which stands for list item.
  • Numbered lists: Numbered lists look weird when you create them in some Web editing programs — the program puts a number symbol (#) next to each item, and the number isn’t assigned until the page displays. Numbered lists are very useful, but are found much less often on the Web. Numbered lists begin with <ol> for ordered list, end with </ol>, and — like bulleted lists — use the <li> tag to mark the beginning of each list item.
  • Definition lists: Definition lists give a term and then a definition for the term. They’re rarely used, though finding a use for them in your Web page is a good exercise. A definition list starts with <dl> and ends with </dl>. Each term is preceded by <dt>, for definition term, and each definition is preceded by <dd>, for definition data.