Re. Summary and thanks

Subject: Re. Summary and thanks
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 1995 12:51:18 LCL

Thanks to all who replied privately and publicly to my query on the
usefulness of numbered headings (and indeed, to my various other
posts). The consensus seems to be that numbered headings are horrible
things that you can generally plan around, but a few voices came down
strongly in their favor. Here are a few of the more convincing
arguments in favor, plus my commentary:

- It's easier to refer to section 1.1.1.1 than to provide the full
context (i.e., the titles for each of the headings and subheadings).
But surely a page reference is just as good in many cases?

- Some people find the numbers a useful clue to hierarchy. Personally,
I'm limited to understanding about three levels at a time, which means
a seven-digit number doesn't help. (Pop quiz: what is the hierarchical
meaning of level five of the numbering? How about level 7? Now
assuming that you know, as the author, will your audience know too?)

- Numbers are important in certain specification systems (e.g.,
MILSPEC), where they have a standardized meaning. Can't comment,
having not worked to such specs, but sounds perfectly reasonable. Some
styles take on a life of their own, and there's little point trying to
replace them with something better (if it really is better).

- Numbers make tracking revisions (and issuing updates) easier. Maybe,
but issuing new pages to replace old ones is easier still. Even where
the number is important for the author's use, does it retain this
importance for the reader?

As you can see, I'm unconvinced, but some of these points are worthy
of more discussion. I _can_ be persuaded. Any more comments, details,
rebuttals, clarifications, etc.?

--Geoff Hart #8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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