## Re: Numbering Steps for Multiple Paths

Subject: Re: Numbering Steps for Multiple Paths
From: "Jan Stanley" <janron -at- concentric -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999 12:59:34 -0400

Melanie wonders about numbering single-step procedures: "It
seems strange to have a number 1 without a number 2, but it looks
terrible (to me) to have a numbered sequence parallel with an
unnumbered sequence."

The thing is, if it's just one action, it's not really a
_sequence_, so it doesn't need to be numbered. And if a reader
sees "1.," he or she is likely to think that "2.," etc., got left
out accidentally.

Have you checked the archives for this one, Melanie? Seems to me
it's come up before. In the meantime, here are a couple of my
thoughts.

First: This certainly wouldn't work in all cases, but if the
multiple steps that make up one alternative are simple, turn them
into one step. For instance, in the example you gave, you could
turn

1 Click the so-and-so button
2 Enter the information

into

Click So-and-so, then enter the information.

Second: When I've had to document multiple ways of doing
something, I've listed the alternatives with a specific symbol
(explained in the book's "conventions" section) preceding each
one. When I do it that way, I don't find the seeming
inconsistency between numbered steps and single, non-numbered
actions as visually jarring. Let's see if I can demonstrate:

To move the Cat off the Sofa,

==> 1. Pull the Cat's Tail.
2. Stand back.

==> Open a can of Tuna.

==> Release a Mouse in the room.

==> 1. Walk next door and ring the Bell.
2. Ask the Neighbor's Child to come over and play.
3. Bring the Neighbor's Child into your Living Room.
4. Point out the Cat sleeping on the Sofa.
5. Turn the Child loose.

Regards,
Jan
janron -at- concentric -dot- net

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