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This week we’ve explored how professional and technical writers can use design, layout, and typography strategies to make documents easy to read and useful for their aud

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Home » Uncategorized » This week we’ve explored how professional and technical writers can use design, layout, and typography strategies to make documents easy to read and useful for their aud

This week we’ve explored how professional and technical writers can use design, layout, and typography strategies to make documents easy to read and useful for their audience. 

For this week’s Concept Worksheet, you’ll apply these strategies to an existing text with the end goal of making it more readable, clear, and useful for a non-specialist audience.  

This worksheet is similar to the Audience Adaptation Assignment you completed in Week 3, but the focus in that assignment was on adapting the language for non-specialists. The focus here is entirely on strategies for layout, design, formatting, and typography. 

Using the understanding you’ve gained from Chapters 4.3-4.5 of our textbook, apply three or more of the following strategies to the text below: 

  • Headings 
  • Lists 
  • Figures 
  • Notices 
  • Tables 
  • Highlighting 
  • Margins, indentation, and alignment 
  • Fonts and color 

Last, write an explanation of at least 250 words explaining what changes you made to the text and how you think those changes might benefit a non-specialist audience. Your document should be 12pt, Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, and double spaced.

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What Causes Sleep? There are two internal biological mechanisms that work together to regulate wakefulness and sleep referred to as circadian rhythms and sleep-wake homeostasis. Circadian rhythms direct a wide variety of body functions including wakefulness, core temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones. They control the timing of sleep, causing a person to feel sleepy at night and creating a tendency to wake in the morning without an alarm. Circadian rhythms are based roughly on a 24-hour clock and use environmental cues, such as light and temperature to determine the time of day.

Sleep-wake homeostasis keeps track of a person’s need for sleep. A pressure to sleep builds with every hour that a person is awake, reaching a peak in the evening when most people fall asleep. The homeostatic sleep drive also regulates sleep intensity, causing a person to sleep longer and more deeply after a period of sleep deprivation. Adenosine is linked to this drive for sleep. While awake, the level of adenosine in the brain continues to rise, with increased levels signaling a shift toward sleep. While sleeping, the body breaks down adenosine. When it gets dark, the body also releases a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin signals the body that it’s time to prepare for sleep and creates a feeling of drowsiness. The amount of melatonin in the bloodstream peaks as the evening wears on. A third hormone, cortisol, is released in the early morning hours and naturally prepares the body to wake up.

Factors that influence a person’s sleep and wakefulness include medical conditions, medications, stress, sleep environment, and foods and fluids consumed, but the greatest influence is exposure to light. Specialized cells in the retina process light and provide messages to the brain to align the body clock with periods of day or night. Exposure to bright artificial light in the late evening can disrupt this process, making it hard to fall asleep. Examples of bright artificial light include the light from a TV screen, computer, or smartphone. Exposure to light can also make it difficult to return to sleep after being awakened.

Night shift workers often have trouble falling asleep when they go to bed and may have trouble staying awake at work because their natural circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle are disrupted. Jet lag also disrupts circadian rhythms. When flying to a different time zone, a mismatch is created between a person’s internal clock and the actual time of day.

The rhythm and timing of the body clock change with age. For example, teenagers fall asleep later at night than younger children and adults because melatonin is released and peaks later in the 24-hour cycle for teens. As a result, it’s natural for many teens to prefer later bedtimes at night and sleep later in the morning than adults.

Individuals also need more sleep early in life, when they’re growing and developing. For example, newborns may sleep more than 16 hours a day, and preschool-aged children need to take naps. Young children tend to sleep more in the early evening, whereas older adults tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

Sleep Phases and Stages.When sleeping, individuals cycle through two phases of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. A full sleep cycle takes 80 to 100 minutes to complete, and most people typically cycle through four to six cycles per night. It is common to wake up briefly between cycles.

Restoration takes place mostly during slow wave, non-REM sleep, during which the body’s temperature, heart rate, and brain oxygen consumption decrease. Brain activity decreases, so this stage is also referred to as slow-wave sleep and is observed during sleep studies. Non-REM sleep has these three stages:

Stage 1: The transition between wakefulness and sleep. Stage 2: The initiation of the sleep phase. Stage 3: The deep sleep or slow-wave sleep stage is based on a pattern that appears during measurements of brain activity. Individuals spend the most amount of sleep time in this stage during the early part of the night. (Note that the previously considered 4th stage of non-REM sleep is now included within Stage 3).

During REM sleep, a person’s heart rate and respiratory rate increase. Eyes twitch as they rapidly move back and forth, and the brain is active. Brain activity measured during REM sleep is similar to activity during waking hours. Dreaming occurs during REM sleep, and muscles normally become limp to prevent acting out one’s dreams. People typically experience more REM sleep as the night progresses. However, hot and cold environments can affect a person’s REM sleep because the body does not regulate temperature well during REM sleep.

The patterns and types of sleep change as people mature. For example, newborns spend more time in REM sleep. The amount of slow-wave sleep peaks in early childhood and then drops sharply in the teenage years. Slow-wave sleep continues to decrease through adulthood, and older people may not have any slow-wave sleep at all.

Why Is sleep important? Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times protects mental health and physical health. Lack of sleep affects daytime performance, quality of life, and safety. The way a person feels while awake depends on what happens while they are sleeping. During sleep, the body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being. Sleep helps the brain work properly. While sleeping, the brain is forming new pathways to help a person learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps a person pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Conversely, sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain, causing difficulty in making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency has also been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Physical Health. Sleep also plays an important role in physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that cause hunger (ghrelin) or a feeling of fullness (leptin). When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, the level of ghrelin increases and the level of leptin decreases, causing a person to feel hungry when sleep deprived. The way the body responds to insulin is also affected, causing increased blood sugar.

Sleep supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release hormones that promote normal growth in children and teens. These hormones also boost muscle mass and help repair cells and tissues.

-Text adapted from Nursing Fundamentals under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,

Links to an external site. which allows remixing, transforming, and building upon the original.

Reference

Open Resources for Nursing (Open RN). (n.d.). Sleep and Rest, Basic Concepts. In K. Ernstmeyer & E. Christman (Eds.), Nursing Fundamentals. Chippewa Valley Technical College. https://wtcs.pressbooks.pub/nursingfundamentals/

Links to an external site.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
https://wtcs.pressbooks.pub/nursingfundamentals/
https://wtcs.pressbooks.pub/nursingfundamentals/

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2/9/23, 8:46 AM “4.3 – Page Design” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

https://alg.manifoldapp.org/read/open-technical-communication/section/b0b869d2-479c-44aa-b370-25b91e470c42 1/4

Chapter 4: Document Design

4.3: Page Design

By: David McMurrey and Jonathan Arnett

Objectives

Upon completion of this chapter, readers will be able to do the following:

1. Explain and apply design guidelines for heading and list use in technical documents. 2. Explain and apply design guidelines for including notices in technical documents. 3. Explain and apply design guidelines for table and �gure use in technical documents. 4. Explain and apply design guidelines for text highlighting and alignment in technical documents. 5. Explain and apply design guidelines for font and color in technical documents.

Common Page Design

Page design means di�erent things to di�erent people, but here it will mean the use of typography and formatting such as you see in professionally-designed documents.

Our focus here is technical documentation, which implies modest, functional design.

For even more detail than you see here, consult these two standard industry resources:

Sun Technical Pubs. Read Me First! Any recent edition. Prentice Hall. Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications. Any recent edition. Microsoft Press.

Headings

The following presents some of the standard guidelines on headings.

Insert plenty of headings, perhaps one heading for every two to three paragraphs. Avoid overkill, though: lots of headings with only one or two sentences per heading does not work. Indicate a heading’s level through design. Use type size, type style, color, boldness, italicization, and alignment to make a heading’s level obvious. (“Levels” of headings are like levels in an outline: Level 1

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corresponds to the large, capitalized roman numerals; Level 2 to the capital letters; Level 3 to the arabic numerals; Level 4 to the lower-case roman numerals; and so on.) Limit the levels of heading. Most documents only need three or fewer levels of heading; more levels can confuse your readers. Describe the sections’ contents with speci�c language. Vague headings like “Technical Background” don’t tell anybody anything. Use parallel phrasing. Parallel headings tell readers if the sections are similar to each other. Avoid “lone headings.” If you have one heading, you should use a second. It’s the same concept as having an “A” without a “B” or a “1” without a “2” in outlines. Avoid “stacked headings” (two or more consecutive headings without text in between). Don’t use a pronoun to refer to a heading. If you have a heading like “Con�guring the Software,” don’t follow it with a sentence like “This next phase…” Consider the “hanging-head” format for major headings. In this design, some or all of the headings are on the left margin, while all text is indented one to two inches. This format will make headings stand out more and reduce the main text’s line length. Consider using “run-in” headings for your lowest-level headings. In this design, the heading “runs into” the beginning of a paragraph and ends with a period. You can use some combination of boldness, italics, or color for these headings. This format avoids the problem of lower-level headings blending in with each other.

Lists

Lists are useful tools for emphasizing important points, enabling readers to scan text rapidly, and providing more white space. The following presents some of the standard guidelines on lists.

Use numbered lists to show sequence, order, or hierarchy. Use bulleted lists for items that can appear in any order. Use standard numbered- and bulleted-list formats. They are built into word-processing programs, and HTML has ordered- and unordered-list tags. Use parallel phrasing for lists’ contents. Introduce all lists with lead-in text; don’t start a list immediately after a heading. Unless your organization’s style overrides, punctuate list items with a period only if they are complete sentences or have embedded dependent clauses. Be consistent with using initial caps or lower-case letters on the �rst words of list items. Use di�erent symbols for the second levels of nested lists. For numbered lists, use lowercase letters. For bulleted lists, use bolded en dashes or empty-centered circles. In either case, make sure that nested items align to the text of the previous level. Avoid using too many lists or overstu�ng lists. Seven to ten items is generally about the maximum number of items.

Notices

Notices are specially-formatted chunks of text that alert readers to special points, exceptions, potential problems, or danger. The following presents some of the standard guidelines for notices.

Make notices more prominent and noticeable as they become more severe. Consider using this standard hierarchy: “Danger” for situations that could involve severe injury or death “Warning” for situations that could involve minor injury “Caution” for situations that could involve equipment damage, data loss, or a threat to a procedure’s success

2/9/23, 8:46 AM “4.3 – Page Design” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

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“Note” for exceptions or situations that do not require the preceding tags Whatever notice design you use, avoid using long strings of bold text, italics, capital letters, or combinations of these. In addition to telling readers to do or not do something, explain three things: under what conditions they should use the notice what will happen if they ignore the notice how to recover if they ignore the notice Make notices’ text succinct, but not at the expense of clear writing. Avoid telegraphic writing style (omitting articles like a, an, the) in notices. In numbered lists, align notices to the text of the list items they apply to. Put notices in two places: before the step in which the potential problem exists at the beginning of the entire procedure

Figures

Figures are illustrations, drawings, schematics, photos, and other visual materials. The following presents some of the standard guidelines on �gures.

In the text before each �gure appears, provide a cross-reference to the �gure. If you include a label and caption, place them below each �gure. Omit labels and captions if they have no vital function and are not needed (for example, in instructions when the �gures are closely related to the individual steps).

Tables

Tables are like lists, which were discussed previously, but are more structured and formal. In your text, look for repeating pairs, triplets, or quadruplets of items that can be formatted as tables. For example, a series of terms and de�nitions is a classic use for tables. The following presents some of the standard guidelines for tables.

Look for repeating groups of items in your text that you can format as tables. In the text before each table appears, provide a cross-reference to the table. Include a table title unless the content of the table is utterly obvious and the table contains few items. Place the table title above the table, or make it the top row of the table. Use column and row headings (or both) to de�ne the contents of the columns and rows. Consider highlighting these headings. Left-align text columns (unless the contents are simple alphabetic characters). Left-align text columns with their headings. Right-align or decimal-align numerical data, and center it under its heading. Put standard measurement units (ft, mm, gal.) in the column or row heading rather than with each item in the column or row. Brie�y discuss the main trend in the table—what you want readers to notice.

Highlighting

Software documentation typically uses a lot of highlighting. Highlighting here refers to bold text, italics, alternate fonts, capital letters, quotation marks, and other typographical tricks used to call attention to text. The following presents some standard guidelines for highlighting.

Establish a plan for using highlighting, and apply it consistently.

2/9/23, 8:46 AM “4.3 – Page Design” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

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Use highlighting for speci�c, functional reasons. Avoid too much highlighting, and avoid complicated highlighting schemes. Consider using this fairly standard highlighting scheme: For simple emphasis, use italics. Use bold for commands, on-screen buttons and menu options. Use italics for variables for which users must supply their own words. Use an alternate font for text displayed on screen or text that users must type in. For screen and �eld names, use the capitalization style shown on the screen but no other highlighting. Use an initial cap for key names but no other highlighting. For extended emphasis, use the notice format.

Margins, Indentation, and Alignment

As mentioned in the section on headings, you may wish to indent main text one to two inches while leaving headings on the left margins. This style does two things: it makes the headings stand out, and it shortens the main text’s line length.

Fonts & Color

Here are some suggestions concerning fonts and color:

Limit the number of main fonts that appear in a document to two. For example, you might use Arial for headings and Times New Roman for body text. Use only one alternate font, at most two. For example, you might use Arial for headings, Times New Roman for body text, and Courier New for text that users will see onscreen or that users must type in. If you use color, use it minimally and consistently. For example, if you have black text on a white background, you might select another color for headings. You might use that same color for �gure and table titles as well as the tags for notices (the actual “Note,” “Warning,” “Caution,” and “Danger” labels on notices). Avoid unusual combinations of background and text colors. For example, purple or red text on a black background is unreadable. Stick with black text on a white or gray background unless there is a strong, functional reason for some other color combination.

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2/9/23, 8:47 AM “4.5 – Lists” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

https://alg.manifoldapp.org/read/open-technical-communication/section/186ea758-92f6-4495-b6df-01061e39ec68 1/9

Chapter 4: Document Design

4.5: Bulleted and Numbered Lists

By: David McMurrey

Objectives

Upon completion of this chapter, readers will be able to do the following:

1. Distinguish between di�erent types of lists in technical documents and explain appropriate situations for using each.

2. Explain and apply general guidelines for formatting di�erent types of lists. 3. Use Microsoft Word to style lists appropriately.

Introduction to Lists

Lists are useful because they emphasize selected information in regular text. When you see a list of three or four items strung out vertically on the page rather than in normal paragraph format, you are likely to pay more attention to it. Certain types of lists also make for easier reading. For example, in instructions, it is a big help for each step to be numbered and separate from the preceding and following steps. Lists also create more white space and spread out the text so that pages don’t seem like solid walls of words.

Like headings, the various types of lists are an important feature of professional technical writing: they help readers understand, remember, and review key points; they help readers follow a sequence of actions or events; and they break up long stretches of straight text.

Your task for this chapter is to learn about the di�erent types and uses of lists and to learn their speci�c format and style.

“Lists emphasize important points and help readers follow a sequence.”

General Guidelines

In technical-writing contexts, you must use a speci�c style of lists, like the one presented here.

2/9/23, 8:47 AM “4.5 – Lists” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

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Use lists to highlight or emphasize text or to enumerate sequential items. Use exactly the spacing, indentation, punctuation, and caps style shown in the following discussion and illustrations. Make list items parallel in phrasing. See this tutorial from commnet.edu’s Guide to Grammar and Writing on Parallel Structures. Make sure that each item in the list reads grammatically with the lead-in. Use a lead-in to introduce the list items and to indicate the meaning or purpose of the list (and punctuate it with a colon). When two items are alternatives, use a bulleted list (with or between). Do not use numbered lists for OR-ed items. For three or more alternatives, indicate that in the list lead-in. When a separate notice or explanatory paragraph follows a item, indent that separate material to the text of the parent list item.

Figure 1: Indented material that elaborates on the parent list item.

Avoid using headings as lead-ins for lists. Avoid overusing lists; using too many lists destroys their e�ectiveness. Use similar types of lists consistently in similar text in the same document. Use the “styles” function in your software to create vertical lists rather than constructing them manually.

Note: In-sentence lists could be called “horizontal” lists. All the other lists types presented here are “vertical” lists in that they format the items vertically rather than in paragraph format.

Speci�c Types of Lists

It’s di�cult to state guidelines on choosing between the various kinds of lists, but here’s a stab at it:

Most importantly, use numbered lists for items that are in a required order (such as step-by-step instructions) or for items that must be referred to by item number. Use bulleted lists for items that are in no required order. With in-sentence lists, there are no conventions when to use letters (a), (b), and so on, as opposed to numbers (1), (2), and so on. If you are in a numbered list and need a sublist, use lowercase letters, to contrast with the numbers. Otherwise, there seem to be no widely agreed-upon guidelines—just be consistent! Use vertical lists as opposed to in-sentence lists when you want the emphasis provided by the vertical presentation. In-sentence lists provide only minimal emphasis; vertical lists provide much more. Within an individual report, use in-sentence lists and vertical lists consistently for similar situations. For example, if you have topic overviews for each section of a report, use in-sentence or vertical lists for the overview—but don’t mix them for that particular use.

Common Problems with Lists

Problems with lists usually include the following:

http://guidetogrammar.org/grammar/parallelism.htm

2/9/23, 8:47 AM “4.5 – Lists” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

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Mix-up between numbered and bulleted lists Lack of parallel phrasing in the list items Use of single parentheses on the list-item number or letter Run-over lines not aligned with the text of list items Lack of a strong lead-in sentence introducing list items, and lack of a colon to punctuate lead-ins Inconsistent caps style in list items Unnecessary punctuation of list items Inconsistent use of lists in similar text Lists that have too many items and need to be subdivided or consolidated

Format for Lists

Use the following for speci�c details on the capitalization, typography (bold, underlining, di�erent fonts, di�erent types sizes), and spacing for each type of list.

In-Sentence Lists

Use these guidelines for in-sentence lists:

1. Use a colon to introduce the list items only if a complete sentence precedes the list. In this problem version, the colon breaks right into the middle of a sentence (how dare it!):

Problem: For this project, you need: tape, scissors, and white-out.

Revision: For this project, you need tape, scissors, and white-out.

2. Use both opening and closing parentheses on the list item numbers or letters: (a) item, (b) item, etc. 3. Use either regular Arabic numbers or lowercase letters within the parentheses, but use them consistently.

(Do not punctuate either with periods.) Use lowercase for the text of in-sentence lists items, except when regular capitalization rules require caps.

4. Punctuate the in-sentence list items with commas if they are not complete sentences; punctuate with semicolons if they are complete sentences.

5. Use the same spacing for in-sentence lists as in regular non-list text. 6. Make the in-sentence list occur at the end of the sentence. Never place an in-sentence list introduced by a

colon anywhere but at the end of the sentence, as in this example:

Problem: The following items: tape, scissors, and white-out are needed for this project.

Revision: The following items are needed for this project: tape, scissors, and white-out.

2/9/23, 8:47 AM “4.5 – Lists” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

https://alg.manifoldapp.org/read/open-technical-communication/section/186ea758-92f6-4495-b6df-01061e39ec68 4/9

Figure 2: Examples of in-sentence lists.

Simple Vertical Lists

Use these guidelines for simple vertical lists:

1. Introduce the list with a lead-in phrase or clause (the lead-in need not be a complete sentence; the list items can complete the grammar started by the lead-in). Punctuate the lead-in with a colon.

2. Use simple vertical lists when the list items do not need to be emphasized and are listed vertically merely for ease of reading.

3. Use sentence-style capitalization on list items. 4. Begin run-over lines under the text of the list item, not the regular left margin. This format is called the

hanging-indent style. 5. Use the equivalent of a blank line above and below vertical lists. 6. Either start list items �ush left or indent them no more than half an inch. 7. Use “compact” list format if you have just a few list items only a single line each. In the compact format,

there is no vertical space between list items. Use a “loose” format—vertical space between list items—if the list items are multiple lines long.

8. Punctuate list items only if they are complete sentences or verb phrases that complete the sentence begun by the lead-in (and use periods in these two cases).

9. Watch out for lists with more than 6 or 8 list items; for long lists, look for ways to subdivide or consolidate. 0. When possible, omit articles (a, an, the) from the beginning of non-sentence list items.

Example of a simple vertical list. No numbers or bullets.

Bulleted Lists

Use these guidelines for bulleted lists:

2/9/23, 8:47 AM “4.5 – Lists” in “Open Technical Communication” on OpenALG

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1. Introduce the list with a lead-in phrase or clause (the lead-in need not be a complete sentence; the list items can complete the grammar started by the lead-in). Punctuate the lead-in with a colon.

2. Use bulleted lists when the list items are in no necessary order but you want to emphasize the items in the list.

3. Use asterisks or hyphens if you have no access to an actual bullet. Use your software’s list styles for these vertical lists.

4. Use sentence-style capitalization on list items. 5. Begin run-over lines under the text of the list item, not the bullet. This format is called the the hanging-

The post This week we’ve explored how professional and technical writers can use design, layout, and typography strategies to make documents easy to read and useful for their aud first appeared on Writeden.

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