Re: to number or not to number

Subject: Re: to number or not to number
From: Eric Brown <eric_brown -at- SFU -dot- CA>
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 09:28:37 -0800

John Sturman wrote about section numbering...

Back in 89, I took over as managing editor for a company that suppled
industrial automation software and hardware to large clients (Ford, GM,
etc.; Allen-Bradley also relabeled the stuff and sold it as their own). I
guess I was in the position of your new head writer -- I came in and
insisted that the secton numbering be removed. My reasons: it makes a
manual look less intimidating, less like an engineering spec, less
mil-spec, and more retail-like.

All hell broke loose as writers and some Allen-Bradley types balked, but as
the new boss I couldn't back off (and I felt strongly about it).

I'll cut the story short. After the first release of the revised manuals,
Allen-Bradley ran a periodic survey of product quality on a number of
products, including ours. The results were clear: customers perceived our
manuals as better than Allen-Bradley's previous section-numbered manuals
(ours averaged 8 out of 10 on the quality index; theirs averaged 2 out of
I had worked with the writers on a number of writing and organizing issues,
and it's not just a section numbering issue, but I don't honestly believe
that our manuals were so very much better than theirs. I think it's a
matter of perception. Customers these days have expectations set by
consumer manuals. Even though few of us work for companies with Microsoft
or Apple's print budgets, we have to do what we can to approach the retail
standard, and customers DO notice.

That's my $0.02 ($0.03 CDN) worth. Let me know what others have to say.

Eric Brown
eric_brown -at- sfu -dot- ca

Eric Brown
Marketing Communications
869 Drayton Street
North Vancouver BC V7L 2C2
(604) 980-6947 fax 980-6933
eric_brown -at- sfu -dot- ca

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