Re: Using a gerund phrase for procedure topic titles

Subject: Re: Using a gerund phrase for procedure topic titles
From: CHRISTINE ANAMEIER <CANAMEIE -at- email -dot- usps -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2001 17:25:13 -0500

The alternatives to the gerund phrase are a little problematic, IMO.

I don't object strongly to the simple imperative ("Create a new
document," "Change user preferences," etc.), but it's inconsistent
with how we use the imperative everywhere else. If an imperative means
"Do this" in body text but means "How to do this" in a heading, that's
one more thing the user's mind has to process.

If you go the "How to" route, most of the titles will begin with "How
to," which means the point of difference between the various topic
titles will be buried in the middle of the title. Picture a TOC
section like this:
How to create a new document
How to draw a giraffe
How to edit a document
How to fry an egg . . . .

I'll stick with the gerund, personally, but admittedly I have no
research to back up my preference. Just an inclination to filter out
as much cognitive noise as possible. It may only take a couple
nanoseconds for Joe User to find the verb in those "how to" titles or
remember your document conventions about imperative verbs, but that
makes the document a tiny bit less usable. It all adds up after a

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