Re: "Nested" Headings

Subject: Re: "Nested" Headings
From: "Steinl, Norbert" <NSteinl -at- crownlift -dot- de>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 12:01:32 +0100

Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com> wrote:

> >Ellen Vanrenen wrote:
> >
> >>I have a colleague, who was an excellent technical writer
> >>in a former
> >>life, who has suggested that I change my template to use "nested"
> >>headings... I like the Heading style more or less parallel.
> >>Readers would see a symmetrical page.
> >>
> >>I'd like your opinions, please.

> Nested headings originated because, in the days when
> typewriters roamed
> the office, there weren't many ways to make one heading
> different from
> another. That's no longer true. In fact, we have so many different
> options now for differentiating headings that nested headings
> could be
> said to be obsolete.

I disagree with this generalizing predicate, Bruce.
But first of all, forgive me my bad English. My mother's tongue
is German and I might not alwyas be able to express myself in
a polite looking manner in English. Always assume, I'm the politest
person living on this planet. And forgive me the terrible grammar,
please ;-)

But now back to the topic. IMHO we have to consider the
different types of documents we are writing, before we declare nested
headers as obsolete. For software documentation it might be ok to drop
nested headers at all. But I have never done software documentation.

I could not imagine to get a clear, structured and readable
sevice manual for a fork lift truck with 500+ pages without nested
headers. Although we tried some different approaches, none
of the other methods to structure a manual logically and to break
down complex instructions from top to the bottom really worked for
the user. We are limited by the use of colours (only one possible)
and bound to hardcopies.

Might be, the acceptance of nested headers also depends on cultural
differences. German technicians are accustomed to nested headers in
technical manuals.

Just my 2 Euro Cents ....

Norbert Steinl
Senior Technical Writer & Illustrator

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