Pros or Cons of Section Numbering

Subject: Pros or Cons of Section Numbering
From: "Peter Ring, PRC" <prc -at- PIP -dot- DKNET -dot- DK>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996 09:10:53 +1

On 29 Aug 1996 Mary Anthony <mary -at- PERSISTENCE -dot- COM> wrote:

> We are using a new section numbering scheme in our templates --
> something similar to the following:
> 1.0
> 1.1
> 1.1.2
> 1.1.3
> and so forth. My personal opinion regarding section numbering, is
> that it is unnecessary for commercial documentation, that
> indentation or font changes supply adequate visual cues for
> readers.

> When writing documentation that uses section numbering, I often
> have to shorten or rewrite headings to allow room for the number.
> Shortened headings can result in less "user friendly" headings.
> Also, I consider the "Table of Contents" created with section
> numbering harder to scan and simply less attractive than other
> headings.

> As I have an obvious bias against section numbering, I am looking
> for enlightenment from folks on the list who find section numbering
> useful. Also, any one who wants to support my bias is free to
> respond. :-) If anyone knows of any citings pro or con regarding
> the usability of section numbering those would also be of interest
> to me.

> My ultimate goal is to persuade our company to remove section
> numbering. However, it could be I am underestimating the benefits.
> Anyone with experience in this area out there?

There are both pros and cons for/against section numbers. It depends
on the type of manual and its readers, and I agree with you on you
cons. I fact there are more than you listed. In fact, I more often
reject numbering than use numbering, but always based on an

And there are pros, too, e.g. if you are making many almost identical
manuals to be read by the same people. An example is service manuals
for products like photo copiers or cars. Here it could be easier to
know for the reader, that e.g. engine control is always in section

For the full list of the pros and cons (so far), take a look at my
"Tip of the Month May 1996" on the "Website for User Friendly
Manuals". The direct access to the specific page is

Greetings from Denmark

Peter Ring
PRC (Peter Ring Consultants)
- specialists in user friendly manuals and audits on manuals.
prc -at- pip -dot- dknet -dot- dk
- the "User Friendly Manuals" website with links, bibliography,
list of proff. associations, and tips for technical writers.

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