Re: Procedures - Must we use numbered steps?
We spend a great deal of time formatting numbered
procedures and the numbered substeps that are often
embedded within them. (How many times have we
struggled with Word's autonumbering?) It's become an
accepted practice that when you write a procedure, you
use numbers to show the sequence of steps.
But I wonder, is it really necessary to use numbered
steps at all? Gordon Meyer's Usable Help blog
recently discussed what techncial writers might learn
from recipe writers. While he doesn't raise the issue
of numbered steps, it struck me that recipes rarely
use numbered steps at all, yet somehow cookbook
readers are able to follow a fairly complex sequence
So I ask, have you ever considered writing procedures
Geoff already beat me to the point that readers often
use step numbers as a referent point when they move
back to a page after looking away. One point I don't
think anyone has raised, though, is that cookbooks
rarely if ever have a mixture of lists that must be
done in a sequence and lists where the order of the
items doesn't matter, whereas in technical writing
we do have both. I think that making a visual
distinction to indicate to the reader that the actions
in a procedure must be done in a specific order is
another argument for using numbered steps.
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Procedures - Must we use numbered steps?: From: Steven Brown
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