By Echo Swinford and Julie Terberg

First, we commend you for choosing to override the default PowerPoint text formatting and lose those dreaded dots from slide hell. Second, kudos to you for choosing to limit the amount of text on the screen to short, concise phrases. Slides filled with bulleted text, especially full sentences, are the key to losing your audience.

It’s perfectly fine to present without a single bullet character in a deck. Text can by visually separated with spacing, and bullet characters aren’t necessary for brief lists. Some people choose to lose the bullet character on first-level text only; subsequent levels are still bulleted. This method works well for document-type presentations.

The easiest way to achieve the no-bullets style is to select the bulleted text on a completed slide and click the Bullets button on the Ribbon to turn them off. Bullet symbols disappear, and multiple-level sizing and indents remain intact. Notice that we specified completed slide and not slide master.

Turning off bullets on the slide master causes problems in slide editing mode: When you enter text on a slide and press Tab to demote your text to the next level, it doesn’t pick up the new level formatting. When top-level bullets are removed on the slide master, you must use the Decrease List Level and Increase List Level buttons on the Home tab to get the correct formatting when creating a slide and entering text. Getting used to reaching for the Ribbon can be a challenge when you’re used to the Tab and Shift+Tab shortcuts.

A workaround is available for no-bullet formatting on the slide master or slide layouts. Instead of a standard bullet character, you can select the “zero width space” bullet character. On the slide master or appropriate slide layout, open the Bullets and Numbering dialog and click Customize to open the Symbol gallery. Up at the top, next to Font, click the arrow and locate the font that matches your theme body font. (Tip: In the Symbol dialog, the “normal text” font does not always match your file’s theme fonts and therefore can be a devilish way to introduce odd fonts into your files.) Scroll down in the symbol gallery until you see a row of blank spaces. Click these blank symbols until you see Zero Width Space indicated in the lower left of the dialog box OR type 200B in the Character code. (Tip: if your theme font does not include the Zero Width Space character, simply choose Arial or Calibri for the symbol font.) Next, launch the Paragraph dialog to edit the Indentation settings. Change both Indentation settings, Before text and Hanging, to 0.

Using this method for “no-bullet” formatting makes using the Tab and Shift+Tab shortcuts that we’re all used to easy. One caveat: If someone tries to turn bullets points on, they won’t see any symbols; you’ll have to fill them in on the no-bullet style as you’re teaching them to edit their slide text.

Zero Width Space character highlighted in the Symbol dialog