Subject: Re: Consistency in headings

Subject: Subject: Re: Consistency in headings
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Nandini Garud <nandini -at- resonate -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 20:23:53 -0500

Nandini Garud wondered: <<... which kind of headings are in vogue right now? ... Numbered 2.3.5 with indented text that makes page narrow, or non-numbered which guides through font size and placement of headings.>>

Numbered headings have their place; for example, lawyers who need to memorize complex legislation and engineers who need to memorize technical specifications are familiar with this style and seem to use it effectively. (Though I'll bet nobody has ever studied whether this is actually the case. I found the legislation I studied in university universally badly written and badly laid out.)

But for ordinary mortals like you and me, the numbers serve little purpose. Case in point: If I ask anyone on this list to tell me what heading 2.3.5 refers to, the best anyone will be able to tell me that it's a third level heading. In short, the number tells us nothing that the formatting as a level three heading tells us. Though it makes that position more obvious (assuming readers actually care), it still tells us nothing about the semantics of the heading that we won't get from the words that follow the numbers. That makes it redundant.

My take on this is that in most cases, any design that requires more than 4 levels is probably deeply flawed and in need of simplification. Why? Because most people won't be able to reconstruct where they are in the heading hierarchy at 4 levels, let alone with more levels. And if you can design based on 4 levels, you don't need numbers to communicate the hierarchy.

<<I always felt the gerunds (mnemonic: g at the end) such as opening, connecting gave an illusion of action.>>

That's why they work so well.

<<"How to open"... construct is wordy and takes more real estate. However, these can be easily ported into FAQs.>>

Into bad FAQs, perhaps. If you have 20 "how to" headings, how do readers skim through them efficiently? You're forcing the readers to read 40 extra words (20 headings times two useless words); the gerund form takes up only 1 word ("creating...") rather than 3 words ("how to create"), so it's more efficient. If the whole purpose of the FAQ is "how do I?" then why is it necessary to repeat the "how do I" for each heading?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --
Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help
format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content delivery. Try it today!.
Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- infoinfocus -dot- com -dot-
To unsubscribe send a blank email to techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Subject: Re: Consistency in headings: From: Nandini Garud

Previous by Author: Consistency in headings?
Next by Author: Tools: Online style guides
Previous by Thread: Subject: Re: Consistency in headings
Next by Thread: RE: Subject: Re: Consistency in headings

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads