Draft then tag, or tag while drafting?

Subject: Draft then tag, or tag while drafting?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2003 15:22:28 -0400

Jim Bennett wonders: <<Do those of you who draft structured documents prefer
to draft the document unstructured and then
go back and tag it, or do you prefer to insert the tags as you go?>>

It shouldn't really have that much to do with preferences but rather what
you mean by "structured".

If you're writing a real structured document, which I define as something
based on a DTD (whether XML- or SGML-style), then the most important tags
(e.g., title, numbered list, warning) should largely be predefined. In that
context, the tags should be used as you're writing with no more difficulty
than applying paragraph styles or boldfacing in Word. Moreover, you
shouldn't be able to circumvent this process by creating ad hoc styles
whenever the whim suits you. In short, you should be using an authoring tool
that supports and enforces correct tagging.

In contrast, if you mean that you're applying styles in the same way you
would apply them to an HTML document created by copying text out of a Word
file (i.e., manually for the most part, after all the heavy work of writing
and editing was already done in Word), then it comes down to a matter of
what is most efficient for you. If, as you note, tagging as you go
interferes with your creative process, then it may well be more efficient to
apply the tags as you do your second pass to revise the manuscript.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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