TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
>Does anyone out there have any strong opinions about document
There was much more to this post, regarding a combination of
numbering and indenting to be used in what I gather is technical
reference documentation (design specs).
I do have some opinions on this subject. My opinions were formed
mainly by readability studies done on various assignments and
articles I have read in STC _Technical Communication_. I was very
happy when modern word processors and desktop layout software
allowed me to begin to practice technical documentation layout in
ways that I just knew (gut-level) would be very readable for
people on-the-go (80's and 90's technical workers of all sorts).
To summarize and not really do this topic justice, here are some
of the principles that guide me in designing layout for a document:
* Section headings and sub-headings are easier to find if they
are aligned flush-left, while body text is positioned more to
the right on the page in a column indented about 1 to 2 inches
(on a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch page).
* While section or chapter numbering is beneficial, sub-section
numbering can be confusing. In the days before the development
of automatic cross-references, sub-section numbering was more
helpful to the author(s) to aid in updating. I don't feel they
helped the reader much.
* You can indicate document hierarchy much better with different
type face sizes than with either numbering or indenting. The
visual cue is more striking. If available, the addition of
another visual element, such as a bold under- or over-line of
varying weight can be an aid to deciphering hierarchy. In
particular, I would avoid varying levels of indent (for body
type) to indicate sub-section hierarchy. This is absolutely
useless on a passage that crosses several pages.
You may argue that you either don't have these capabilities in
your current software or don't know how to implement them. I
would urge you to get up to speed on them quickly. While I would
recommend a full-featured desktop publisher like FrameMaker to
accomplish what you need, even Word and WordimPerfect support
the features I outlined above. The investment in time and money
to implement modern document design will pay off in customer or
Dave Demyan *** Mendem Concord, Inc.
(908) 753-8500 *** One Mountain Blvd.
concord -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com *** Warren, NJ 07059
FAX: (908) 754-8224