Limits on no. of styles in a template?

Subject: Limits on no. of styles in a template?
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 03:10:34 -0700

Kevin Feeman wondered <<Has there been any studies done regarding the
number of styles within a template? Is there a general number that are
manageable, say 15 styles to a template is good, but having 35 or
above is way to unmanageable?>>

I'm not aware of any such study, and I'd distrust any study that
claimed to have identified any such limit. After all, the number of
styles (elements) required for a business letter is considerably less
than the number required for the user/maintenance manual for a Boeing
767. In short: different purposes, therefore different limitations. I
think the real issue is not how many styles are required, but rather
how many elements; to me, for example, there's not much point in
creating a style called "first paragraph after heading" when the style
"body text" will generally work just fine for all paragraphs. (N.B.:
Some book designers do indeed specify a different paragraph style for
the first paragraph after a title, and though it's not my style, I
understand and accept their logic. Different strokes for different

You may hear something mentioned about George Miller's "magical
number 7 plus or minus 2". Disregard this. Miller's study was about
short-term memory, not hierarchical structures, and therefore doesn't
apply to most of the things people insist on applying it to. Miller's
general conclusion, which you could probably paraphrase safely as
"it's easier to work with simpler structures or fewer data elements
than with complex structures or more data elements" is nonetheless
valid, and this suggests you should probably carefully consider just
how elements your template really needs. There are likely some
redundancies, though perhaps not as many as you might think.

Another point to keep in mind is that if the long-term goal is to
create something that could eventually become an SGML-ready document,
then you're going to see many more tags than you might see in a more
typical word processing document. This is because SGML tags things
based on their function rather than on their appearance, so you might
(for example) see tags for part names embedded in body text, and these
wouldn't be tagged in a typical wordprocessing document. I'm sure Mark
Baker and our other SGML wizards can elaborate on this point.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

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