Numbers or Letters when labeling a graphic?

Subject: Numbers or Letters when labeling a graphic?
From: Lin Sims <ljsims -dot- ml -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 16:18:35 -0400

My coworker and I are having a minor disagreement over whether we should
use numbers or letters when labeling a graphic. Said graphic could be
elements of a UI or parts of a piece of hardware or a map showing locations
of objects.

He says use letters, because that way readers won't think the labels are
correlated to procedure steps (if there are any).

I say use numbers because you don't have to worry about translations to
other languages if /when that happens, and also you don't have to worry
about going over 26 labels in a diagram.

He's mostly working on the hardware products, which don't normally have
that many labels. Right now I'm working on software user interfaces, and
they have a lot of items that need explaining (oddly, the interface is
fairly clean and doesn't look crowded, but they managed to fit in a LOT of
information and controls).

I even showed him my "Illustrating Computer Documentation" book that has
numbers, and he's not only disagreeing with the numbers, he says all the
labels have to be aligned at the top and bottom with connecting lines,
because putting the labels inside the graphic is "messy".

I, of course, have labels all OVER the place (left to right, top to bottom,
as close to what's being labeled as I can manage without obscuring
anything).

I plan to drag out my Tufte books to see if this is addressed at all (doubt
it, but will look), but are there any good resources out there for best
practises?

There is no house style manual; that's one of the things we plan to address
RSN.

--
Lin Sims
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