English
3880

Writing for Business and Industry

Summer
2014

 

Heading Structure

Headings serve three related functions:

1. They reveal the document's design, telling readers when they will receive specific types of information (introductory material, extended explanations/ discussions, concluding remarks, etc.).

2. They more clearly separate the information in your document, helping to avoid dense and unwieldy blocks of text that are difficult to read.

3. They allow readers to navigate more easily through your document via "lateral entry": readers can read straight through or skip around to relevant sections.

Heading help readers stay oriented

Create useful headings

Design useful headings

Heading levels

When a document exceeds about 2 pages and contains distinct sections, it probably needs two levels of headings. The level 1 headings would be Introduction, the main body, Conclusion. The level 2 headings would be the sections discussed in the main body.

Common problems with heading levels

Forgetting that Conclusion is a level 1 heading. It is often formatted to match the level two heading of the main body.

Forgetting to put in the main body level 1 heading. The author formats the Introduction as a level 1 heading, then after the introduction starts out with a level 2 heading for the first section of the main body. This technically means that the heading is part of the introduction.

Tips

Use headings that clearly indicate the content of the following section: use descriptive phrases and questions ("Determining Bandwidth," "Is LaTex Copyrighted?") in addition to standard terms ("Methodology," "Results").

Make sure specific sections contain the appropriate types of information; a "Background" section, for instance, shouldn't be cluttered with results.

Be consistent with levels of headings and fonts throughout the document.

Make sure headings match the table of contents (if you have one).

Put text after a heading. It is considered poor design to have two headings with no text. In nothing else, there should be a paragraph explaining what the following sections contain.

 

Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
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