Re: Benefits of "new chapter on the left"?

Subject: Re: Benefits of "new chapter on the left"?
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 11:17:23 EDT

Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA> asks about setting the "context" of a
chapter in an initial two-page spread, starting on a left-hand page.

I'm surprised this thread has gone on so long. To me, chapters ought to start
on right-hand pages; the exception is fiction publishing, where saving paper
is important. One good reason is that putting markers like chapter openers
all on the same side of the page supports a specific reading skill called
riffling (that thing you do with your thumb); putting chapter openers on both
sides destroys the reader's ability to move through the book rapidly.

Where I work, we use the technique of structured documentation, as developed
by Dr. Edmond Weiss and taught by SOLUTIONS, Inc. It carries the concept of
two-page spreads to its logical conclusion: *all* topics are two pages. For a
typical end-user document, the layout is:

Headline (on left-hand page) Exhibit
(illustration, table, screenshot, etc.)

on right-hand page
Summary (abstract) of topic
Text of topic

We probably do over 80% of all our printed pages this way. It suits the
nature of GUI products; customers seem to like it; we've won STC awards; and
we are extraordinarily productive for a group our size, so it's not a big
burden to execute.

Oh, yes: We start each chapter on a right-hand page. The first page is a
chapter summary, and includes a mini-TOC of the topics within the chapter.
The first two-page topic lies on pages 2 and 3.

I've been preaching structured documentation, and practicing what I preach,
for over ten years now. It's an old dog that can learn new tricks: recently
one of the writers returned from the ITCC with an armful of information on
internationalization (something we're interested in). Apparently, an EU law
says that products sold in Europe be available in multiple (12?) languages,
*with each document the same length*. How you'd do that with a typical
run-together technical document is beyond me; but with a structured document,
we won't have to do anything different. Not bad!

If anyone wants to learn more about structured documentation, contact me
privately. I do seminars... 8^)

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Team Manager ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc., 67 South Bedford St., Burlington, MA 01803 USA
mailto:jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com -dot- nospam 781.359.4902 [voice]
Home Sweet Homepage:

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