RE: "Forward" referencing

Subject: RE: "Forward" referencing
From: Brent L Jones <bjones -at- VersatileSoftware -dot- com>
To: "'Bonna Savarise'" <Bonna_Savarise -at- NOTES -dot- YMP -dot- GOV>, "TECHWR-L, a list for all technical communication issues" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 16:06:02 -0600

Bonna Savarise wrote:

> Has anybody ever run into this situation: an author wants to
> use what he
> calls "forward" referencing--that is, he wants to reference
> figures in an
> early section that actually appear in a later section. So,
> for example, in
> Section 2, you might get a "See Figure 10-1." We have
> considered putting
> the figure in both (or more) sections, but this is a huge
> (5,000-page)
> document and all of these figure additions could add 1,000
> pages to the
> document. The author is unwilling to have the figure appear
> in the earlier
> section only.


Seems like two issues here: when to cross-reference as opposed to
replicating figures/info, and whether the figure must be inserted at the
first mention or on a later mention ("forward" referencing). I'll take 'em
in order.

My general rule: if the cross-reference is "bonus" information--that is,
information that may be useful but is not vital for the task at hand--then I
cross-reference it no matter how many pages away it is. If the information I
want to refer to is essential to the task at hand, but only 5 or so pages
away, then I cross-reference it. If the information I want to refer to is
essential and more than 5 or so pages away, then I replicate it rather than

My rational: I *hate* flipping back and forth between two parts of a doc to
perform an important task or figure out a difficult concept, and I think
most other users do too. Especially with procedures--it's too easy to lose
your place (Did I do step 3 or not? I forgot while flipping to page 11-381
to look at the screenshot). A few pages to flip doesn't bug me, but flipping
section-to-another-section and back is really annoying. I don't force users
to do it with vital information unless it's a few pages away and thus not
too much of an ordeal.

It seems to me that in a 5000+ page document, it will *not* be a trivial
task to find the cross-referenced page and flip back and forth assimilating
the referenced information with the referencing section. You'll be getting
lawsuits from users who've shredded their hands with paper cuts.

Perhaps a solution lies the delivery medium of the information. From your
reluctance to add 1000 pages to the doc, it sounds like you're talking
paper-based delivery. If you're talking electronic, it's a much easier
choice. Add the 1000 pages, cross-reference with hyperlinks rather than
replicate, and you'll still have a usable doc. Perhaps the solution is
electronic delivery?

WRT where the source graphic should actually exist (do I include it the
first time it's used and refer to it after that, or vice versa), I've never
heard of "forward" referencing. The convention is to insert the figure the
first time you refer to it, and then (perhaps) use cross-references to it in
later pages. While flying in the face of convention isn't necessarily a bad
thing, you should generally have a rationale. Does your writer have a

FWIW, cheers,

Brent Jones, Documentation Manager
Versatile Software, Boulder CO
brent -dot- jones -at- versatilesoftware -dot- com

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