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Kirk Turner reports: <<We had a meeting yesterday with the content
experts, and one of them made a snide remark about the "big fat
bullets" that I used for the unordered lists. Actually, the bullets are
standard size, but this content expert, a major architect in our state,
likes the more eccentric bullets available in Word--you know, the fancy
A key rule of information design is that you should change features of
the design to accomplish a specific purpose, not randomly because
you're bored with the old design. Bullets serve the purpose of
indicating a list item, and the standard round bullet is what everyone
instantly recognizes. Change that standard only if you have a
If the emphasis is function over form, there's no reason whatsoever to
change the standard bullet: it works just fine for its intended
purpose, and is instantly recognizable. If the emphasis is form over
function--a distinction certain self-important architects fail to
recognize--then it's appropriate to look for something more fancy.
The decision criterion is as follows: are we trying to make it look
good, or are we focusing on usability? The two are not inherently
contradictory, but extreme advocates of form and function often try to
make it seem like they are. What's important is to get your priorities
straight, and work on secondary priorities only once the primary
priorities are met.
<<Also, He suggested that all the ordered lists be lettered.>>
Was it accidental that you capped "He"? <g> In general, there are two
types of lists: one in which the order is unimportant, and one in which
it is. In the former case, use bullets (i.e., symbols that lack any
inherent order). In the latter case, use either a number (most common)
or a letter (not uncommon) to communicate the concept of order or
There's little theoretical difference between letters and numbers,
since both clearly show sequence to any literate reader, though numbers
may have a slight theoretical edge. However, there is an important
practical difference: if the audience for this particular manual is
familiar with one or the other style, then consistency suggests you
should stick with that style.
Since you noted that you're closing on the deadline, it makes far more
sense to focus on getting the content right rather than quibbling over
trivial design details. Emphasize clarity and correctness of the
content, and worry about the other details later. Nobody expects
elegance from a government department, so nobody will be disappointed
if your design isn't going to win any graphic design awards. They will
be disappointed and will possibly suffer harm if the content sucks.