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Importance of Structure in Technical Writing

August 10, 2009

Data without structure is not very useful. How do you find what you are looking for. Whats important, and what is trivial. When you read about a subject, you expect

some kind of organization that saves you time and effort in learning. If it is not organized, you will quickly give up. They don’t read from start to finish, but rather search

for a particular chunk of information So your index, table of contents, or other navigational aid should come first. Assume your reader is intelligent enough to find their

way if your organization is clear and consistent.

Hierarchical Structures

Ideally, you know your audience so well you can rank the importance of your information. At any rate, you should make an intelligent guess at what should come first.

This creates a natural hierarchy, where features are listed from most to least important.If you follow the structure of the software or system you are documenting, you

may choose to look at the user interface. For each unique screen simply go from the top left to the bottom right, listing each menu item, command button, or text box in order.

Hierarchies become obvious while analyzing the structure and function of your application, based on the primary uses of the system in the hands of your customers.

Horizontal Structures

More often, because of the nature of modern software and user interface design improvements, you will find that the application you write about has a horizontal or process oriented layout. This can be represented as a wheel just as well as a flat line.

Horizontal organization emphasizes the dependencies within the process. One thing follows another. At the same time, it shows that you may start the process
at a variety of points. Anything can be first. There are many ways to achieve the users’ goals.

Vertical Structures

Vertical structures, where there is only one path to follow, are rare. A single information chunk in the form of an instruction may be presented as a vertical structure.

Linear structures

A linear structure is familiar to everyone who reads books. There is a beginning, middle, and an end.For something to happen, something must happen first. It depends, or has a ￯﾿ᄁ￯ᄒタ￯ᄒワdependency￯﾿ᄁ￯ᄒタ? on the first action.

Non-linear structures

Online structures, as you quickly learn by surfing the internet, are non-linear. This means that there is no need for dependency. You can go direct from the middle to the end, and back to the beginning.

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