In a syntax summary -- what if one argument is a list of name-val ue pairs?

Subject: In a syntax summary -- what if one argument is a list of name-val ue pairs?
From: "Haas, Guy" <ghaas -at- selectica -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 11:46:31 -0700

I am documenting a family of APIs in the world of C and Visual Basic. Every
release, some new functions are added to each API, and some existing
functions have their capabilities extended. This can mean that their
signature changes.

Many of the arguments to the functions are optional, offering default
values. Some are simple flags (true or false), some can take one of a short
list of values, and some take an expression (such as a file name, or a
formatting string).

We have adopted a mechanism of using a list (which we call BatchArgs) of
name-value pairs in the most volatile of the functions, so that the
signature as such does not change when a new capability is added. Instead, a
new name and accepted set of values is added to the list.

Now, I have a syntax summary appendix, which the reader who is acquainted
enough with the API would use as a handy reminder about the signature of any
function. BUT, the down side of a BatchArgs argument is that my summary
appendix shows only that such functions USE a BatchArgs argument, but gives
no clue about which of the (scores of) names are acceptable in it.

Has any of you addressed this sort of issue? How to helpfully advise the
reader of the syntax summary about such flexible arguments? Or whether the
reader even cares?

Guy K. Haas ghaas -at- selectica -dot- com or gkhaas -at- usa -dot- net
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