Re: Lovemaking for Dummies

Subject: Re: Lovemaking for Dummies
From: Joanna Sheldon <cjs10 -at- CORNELL -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 05:40:43 -0400


> I have seen claims that some readers are put off by section numbers
> and footnotes. I don't understand why*, and suspect that such people
> are likely to prefer "Dummy's Guides to Lovemaking" or whatever.

Here's another such claim.

Figure that most people would rather not have to read the documents we're
writing; the least we can do is make it easy for them. They don't want to
have to glance down to the bottom of the page every five minutes to read
tiny type and then have to reintegrate that information with what they're
reading in the text; nor do they want to run their eyes over more black and
white marks on the page than absolutely necessary.

Footnotes make people work for information. Your readers may be either too
lazy or too rushed to read footnotes, so they'd better not contain
information vital to the understanding of the topic. Some material *should*
go in footnotes -- marginal details, or references for further reading, etc.

As for section numbers, in some cases (in a recipe for example, or
instructions on how to use a simple piece of household equipment, or a
user's guide in which the subsections are few and can be clearly marked with
a different point size) they merely distract attention from the content. My
practice, in case y'all care to know, is to use section numbers only in
technical documentation written for engineers (who love section numbers
anyway) where there are so many subsections -- though four is my limit --
that the use of type face or point size to mark the difference would be more
irritating than helpful. Heading level four in my technical documents is
not numbered, though; it is marked by bold-faced type slightly larger than
the point size of the text (which is always 10), and indented from the
margin to the same degree as the text..

So there ya have it from my point of view.

And, uh, David, when it comes to guides to lovemaking -- are you saying the
ones for smarties oughta have section numbers and footnotes?

I'm not saying they shouldn't...


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