As explained in the next section?

Subject: As explained in the next section?
From: "Hager, Harry (US - East Brunswick)" <hhager -at- dc -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 11:29:35 -0400

Tech Writers,

(Cross-posted to TECHWR-L and STC Lone Writer SIG.)

I have some questions about the use of the phrase "as explained in the next
section" in user manuals, both print user manuals and online help.

Here's an example where the phrase might be used:
- The program opens the ABC window. The information you enter in this
window, as explained in the next section, makes up the search criteria for
your XYZ query.

The sentence in the above example is the last sentence in a section that
more or less introduces the ABC window. The next section explains how to
enter data into the ABC window to perform a query of the data warehouse.
This next section has its own heading and is thus a separate entity in the
online help world.

In my many years of tech writing for print, I've seldom used the phrase "as
explained in the next section." I typically don't use this phrase for
printed material because of the linear nature of the printed user manuals I

However, I'd like to know what you all think about the use of this phrase
for material that is going to be online help. With regard to this phrase, is
online help different from printed text? (Please, no long dissertations
about the many differences between writing for online help and for printed
material. I only want to discuss this one phrase now.)

With online help, where the user can jump around and may not approach the
material or even think of the material in a linear fashion, I'm thinking
there is real place for this phrase. The use of this phrase clearly
indicates that the details about entering data in the ABC window to perform
a query are discussed in the next section, rather than letting the reader
assume so.

On the other hand, perhaps we can assume that the reader knows that when
they click the right arrow, they are going to a new help topic and that the
new topic begins where the current help topic stops; just like turning the
page in a printed user manual.

What about the repeated use of this phrase in online help? How soon would
the reader get tired of seeing this phrase?

Appreciate your thoughts on this.


H. Jim Hager
hhager -at- dc -dot- com
Pittsburgh Data Center

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