Cook book

Technical Writing – How to Write a Section of a Chapter

Each chapter consists of more than one section. Reserve the first section for a “mini preview” of what follows inside the chapter.

Here are the structural components of each SECTION (but not all need to be present in each section):

1) Introduction Section overview phrase.

2) Description of a function, component or system.

3) PROCEDURAL TASK(s). A set of NUMBERED STEPS to follow to accomplish a task.

4) TABLE TITLE followed by TABLE(S).

5) LEGEND OF FIGURES followed (or preceded) by FIGURE(s) (read TIP below). A “figure” can be a photo, an illustration, a drawing, a table or a graph, a screenshot, etc.

HOT TIP: If you generate a PDF document from your source file, any link pointing to the figure legend creates a usability issue. For what? Because when you click on a PDF link, it takes you to the linked page and displays the caption of the linked figure at the top of the page. This means that you will be looking at a legend WITHOUT a figure! This is because the figure itself is left off the screen and to see it you have to scroll up each time. If you click on a number of these figure legend links, it becomes boring to scroll up to see the numbers.

This is why I recommend placing your figure captions BEFORE a figure, as you would with a table title, so that when the document is converted to PDF, those who click on a link and navigate to a figure don’t have to scroll up to see the figure. In such an arrangement, the figure would be right BELOW the figure caption, saving readers the trouble of scrolling up.

6) Bulleted list(s).

7) If you need to leave a blank page at the end of the chapter because the next chapter begins on a straight, odd-numbered page, add this note to the blank page: “This page is intentionally left blank for double-sided printing.” If you don’t, a number of your readers will respond to you to make you aware of your “mistake”.

8) If you left a space after the TITLE for a mini TOC (Table of Contents), go back to the beginning of your chapter and generate the CHAPTER table of contents.

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