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I haven't had a chance to respond to this thread until now. I am yet
one more dissenter (with reservations). The reason most commonly given
for downstyle headings seems to be readability. Two questions come to my mind:
o If words are commonly spelled with initial caps at the beginning of
a sentence, are they really less readable when capitalized elsewhere?
If the shape of a word reinforces reader identification and most of
these words are commonly used in both contexts (i.e., readers have
seen both forms on a regular basis), then readers probably recognize
forms with initial caps as well as forms without caps with relative
o If the point of a heading is to provide a visual cue to readers about
a new focus or a different topic, then is ease of reading a valid
reason for using downstyle headings?
The point, in my mind, is whether a heading should provide a smooth
transition from one idea to another or if it should divert the reader
to a new line of thought. Since I see headings as a means of
signaling a change in focus, I don't consider smooth transition as
its purpose. If I want a transition, I put it at the end of the
preceding paragraph. If the two topics are that closely related, I
might reconsider the wisdom of putting them under separate headings.
One person suggested the use of infinitive tags (e.g., "To clean the
doohickey...") in addition to traditional-style headings. I've been using
this technique in my documents and find it a good method of signaling a new
information and new procedures.
I'm not slavishly devoted to convention, but I'm not prone to dismissing it
unless I have a good justification. If downstyle headings are more functional,
then the practice seems a reasonable idea. If we switch for a single reason in
exclusion to other valid and equally compelling reasons not to switch, then
we're shooting ourselves in the feet.
Bill Burns * These are MY opinions,
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * MINE I TELL YOU!
Micron Technology, Inc. *
Boise, ID * (not that they amount to much. . .)
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM *