The bullet symbol may take any of a variety of shapes, such as circular, square, diamond or arrow. Typical word processor software offers a wide selection of shapes and colors. Several regular symbols, such as * (asterisk), - (hyphen), . (period), and even o (lowercase Latin letter O), are conventionally used in ASCII-only text or other environments where bullet characters are not available. Historically, the index symbol ☞ (representing a hand with a pointing index finger) was popular for similar uses.
Lists made with bullets are called bulleted lists. The HTML element name for a bulleted list is "unordered list", because the list items are not arranged in numerical order (as they would be in a numbered list). Usually, bullet points are used to list things.
Bullets are most often used in technical writing, reference works, notes, and presentations.
The glyph is also used as a way to hide passwords or confidential information. For example, the credit card number
1234 5678 9876 1234 might be displayed as
•••• •••• •••• 1234.
Items—known as "bullet points"—may be short phrases, single sentences, or of paragraph length. Bulleted items are not usually terminated with a full stop unless they are complete sentences. In some cases, however, the style guide for a given publication may call for every item except the last one in each bulleted list to be terminated with a semicolon, and the last item with a full stop. It is correct to terminate any bullet point with a full stop if the text within that item consists of one full sentence or more. Bullet points are usually used to highlight list elements.
There have been different ways to encode bullet points in computer systems.
Glyphs such as •, ◦ and their reversed variants ◘, ◙ became available in text mode since early IBM PCs with MDA–CGA–EGA graphic adapters, because built-in screen fonts contained such forms at code points 7–10. These were not true characters because such points belong to the C0 control codes range; therefore, these glyphs required a special way to be placed on the screen (see code page 437 for discussion).
Prior to the widespread use of word processors, bullets were often denoted by an asterisk; several word processors automatically convert asterisks to bullets if used at the start of line. This notation was inherited by Setext and wiki engines.
When using the US keyboard, a bullet point character can be produced by pressing 7 on the numpad while keeping Alt pressed.
When using the US keyboard, a bullet point character can be produced by pressing 8 while keeping Option(Alt) pressed.
The bullet is often used for separating menu items, usually in the footer menu. It is common, for example, to see it in latest website designs and in many WordPress themes. It is also used by text editors, like Microsoft Word, to create lists.
A variant, the bullet operator (
U+2219 ∙ BULLET OPERATOR (HTML
∙)) is used as a math symbol, akin to the dot operator. Specifically, in logic,
x • y means logical conjunction. It is the same as saying "x and y" (see also List of logic symbols).