Re: Are chapter numbers necessary?

Subject: Re: Are chapter numbers necessary?
From: "Mark L. Levinson" <nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2002 22:13:48 +0200

I'm here to say that there is life without chapter

At my last job, I started off envisioning a rather
compact manual-- no more than seventy pages-- and
I decided to do it without chapter numbers. The
manual eventually grew to approach 250 pages, but
I never did number the chapters and nobody-- not
our developers, not our sales force, not our beta
customers-- asked me to.

The product was sold pre-configured but the
configuration could be changed by advanced users.
I structured the manual so that the everyday stuff
that took the configuration for granted was up front
and the configuration stuff was at the back.

One reason I had for omitting chapter numbers was
that I feared how the development people would react
if they saw, for example, that setting up a user
account was Chapter 8. ("What? But you can't do
any work at all without a user account!" "Right,
but you do get one account to start with and that's
enough to get you through the first seven chapters."
I saved myself that dialogue and its unpredictable

Another reason was that in the job before that, I'd
numbered the chapters and never used the numbers.
All the cross-referencing was by page-- more efficient--
and I'd begun thinking that the chapter numbers were
looking kind of vestigial.

I can't say what the state of the manual is today
because the company had poor sales and laid me, its
only writer, off. If someone contends that the poor
sales were caused by the lack of chapter numbers, I
can't argue. I wish I had experimented scientifically.

Maybe in my next job I'll try to print half the
books with chapter numbers and half without, and
see how the reactions compare.

Mark L. Levinson
Herzlia, Israel
nosnivel -at- netvision -dot- net -dot- il

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