Re: Numbered versus unnumbered heads in very technical reference guides

Subject: Re: Numbered versus unnumbered heads in very technical reference guides
From: Julie Stickler <jstickler -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: tech2wr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2013 16:33:19 -0400

>From what I've been told, numbered headings are a legacy from the days when
documentation lived in three ring binders. And when a documentation
updated happened, it was "replace section 5.1.3 with this new section
5.1.3." Which seems to me to be the only benefit of numbered headings.

Leonard asked a good question. How would the numbers help the user? In my
case, they don't.

My personal preference is NOT to number headings. But that may be in part
because I have a touch of dyslexia when it comes to holding a random string
of numbers in my head. It doesn't matter if you're writing print(able)
documentation or online Help, I find that having numbers in the headings
can hinder navigation as much as it helps. If I'm looking for topic
"2.1.3.4 Configuration Settings", my eyes will be scanning for
"Configuration Settings" not the string of numbers. And since the TOC pane
in a PDF or Help is often narrow, if the first several characters of a
heading are numbers, it makes it harder for me to navigate the TOC, because
I'm looking for the words, not the numbers. If the TOC pane doesn't
resize, you've made the navigation almost impossible for me because I'm
trying to navigate a sea of similar numbers.

When I'm writing print docs, I try to avoid headings that wrap in my TOC.
Again, if the first several characters of my heading are a string of
numbers, that makes it a challenge to keep my headings to a single line.

YMMV, I know there are probably industries that still require numbers in
headings. I don't happen to work in one.


On Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 8:14 AM, Erika Yanovich <ERIKA_y -at- rad -dot- com> wrote:

> With some already good answers being given, reference material is usually
> arranged alphabetically or by meaningful categories and alphabetically
> inside categories. The only value numbers have is if they appear in the
> system, for example error message number.
> HTH,
> Erika
>
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Julie Stickler
http://heratech.wordpress.com/
Blogging about Agile and technical writing
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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Use if xrefs in topic based or minimalist writing: From: Porrello, Leonard
Numbered versus unnumbered heads in very technical reference guides: From: Matt Gras
RE: Numbered versus unnumbered heads in very technical reference guides: From: Erika Yanovich

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