Re: Consistency in headings

Subject: Re: Consistency in headings
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 11:23:02 -0800

Peffley, Jamie wrote:

> Recently my team of writers
and I learned (possibly through an STC seminar? Or through a Tech Writing
course one of my writers was taking) that this was old-school, and you
shouldn't force topics into a non-action, gerund syntax. So instead of
Understanding Zoobles, I could just say...Zoobles. Possibly a more concrete
example would help....instead of an overview topic: Understanding
Synchronization Between Your Desktop PC and PDA, we'd have something like:
Synchronization Between Your Desktop PC and PDA (and before you say, why not
Synchronizing Your PC and PDA, it's because this is an overview and the
procedural topic is called Synchronizing....). Don't get too hung up on the

This doesn't seem like a great idea to me: as a user
looking through a ToC, I would have no clue what a noun-
only head meant: is it an overview about zoobles, does
it provide specific instructions for how to use zoobles?

Also, if your documentation is delivered online, heads
like that are dangerous for a couple of reasons. First,
heads like this often depend on earlier containing heads
for their full meaning and readers accessing the section
through an online search won't see the containing head.
And in your examples, if I got two search hits that said
"Synchronization Between Your Desktop PC and PDA" and
"Synchronizing Your PC and PDA," I wouldn't be able to
tell the difference. I think that the difference between
gerunds and generalized "non-gerunds" is more meaningful
and noticeable to writers than it is to users.

Now when I read through the TOC, though, I'm a little put off by the lack of
consistency between headings. How do you all handle this? Do you use gerunds
for procedural topics and non-gerunds for overview or conceptual topics? All
gerunds? Whatever seems to work?

We use infinitives for procedural topics ("To Install a Zooble")
and gerunds for conceptual topics ("Installing Zoobles"). We
also add a small glyph next to procedural heads to indicate

-- Janice

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Consistency in headings: From: Peffley, Jamie

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