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#WeekendWatch: Create Information-Rich Signposts

#WeekendWatch: Create Information-Rich Signposts published on 11 Comments on #WeekendWatch: Create Information-Rich Signposts Login Help videos are free to Virginia Tech students with your VT.EDU login. Start at the VT.EDU login page to access these resources.

Today’s #WeekendWatch video discusses how including clear headings, subheadings, and links helps readers navigate your document by providing information-rich signposts. Listen for a reference in the video to the F-shaped reading pattern, which these document features support.

The video refers to online documents specifically, but most of these features are useful in printed documents as well. Obviously links are not very helpful in printed work. Headings and subheadings certainly are.

Learning to Write for the Web by Chris Nodder (video, 5m22s)




I found this Lynda video to be informative about headings, summaries, subheadings, and links. All of these are very useful for a website type format, however links are not helpful on a written paper. A heading (the title) is very helpful to the reader because that will let them know what the whole paper is about. Subheadings are super useful in longer papers or lab reports because it breaks the texts into sections. The subheading name will allow the reader to know what the section is about and this helps them to decide if they think that section will interest them, and if not they might move on to see what the next subheading is about. I find myself reading what the subheading is about when I am reading news articles to see if that section catches my interest. I find it more helpful when subheadings have a different format than the rest of the text such as being bold or a couple size bigger because it allows them to stand out. I feel that summaries are more common on websites that give a summary of a news article, however in lab reports that I have done in the past, usually we have to write an abstract and this give the summary of the whole report. Headings and subheadings in particular are a very useful way to organize your papers to make it easier for the reader to look at.

This was a great video that helps illuminate another approach to organization. We continue to see the same themes over and over again but just by a different approach or explanation. A important new idea I found in this post was no teaser headings/headlines should stand on their own. Click baits article are a popular phenomenon currently, and if you want your work to be take seriously, you need to avoid that genre of writing. Click baits are a joke now so no respect will come to your article if you use that method. The summary should be straightforward, letting the reader know if they are in the right place. I know as a reader I get frustrated reading through an entire article just to find out it did not contain the information I was seeking. Always keep your reader in mind because they determine the success of your article.

I actually already use this — this exact format that was used in the video. When I’m writing user documentation, I break it up into the title/headline, an intro/summary, subheadings and their respective content, and a resources section at the end with links. The links get referenced throughout the documentation and also are collected at the bottom. This way, the user/reader knows which links are relevant to their topic as well as the whole project (analogous to parenthetical citations and a works cited page).

I think this video is really useful for technical writing. Using signposts gives a more elegant design and it also helps search engines catalog the document’s content. Headings and subheadings are most commonly their own HTML tag which differentiates their content from the rest, even allowing direct linking to that part of a webpage. For example, on the Math Department’s webpage of faculty members:, I can jump straight to the L section by appending #L to the end of the URL. That functions as a direct link to that section of the webpage. PDFs have similar functionality online for linking a particular page of many.

I found this article really interesting because I normally do teaser headers to entice the readers, however I didn’t realize that having teaser information deterred them from reading. However there needs to be a balance because the teaser text needs to be able to tell you something that the article is about, but not reveal all of the information. I honestly don’t really think about making subheadings just because I think having the heading along with quality information in the summary of the article is most important, however I can see how it can be an asset by providing the readings with a little more descriptive headline before they get into the bulk of the text.

I think that the type of header used definitely depends on the audience that’s the author is trying to reach. For something like The Onion (satirical articles), teaser headlines is exactly what they should be using. The rules are a bit different for more serious publications like the New York Times or Washington Post. But even when I scroll through Google News in the morning, I’m looking for the articles with the most interesting titles. Sure, I might get disappointed with the quality of the article, but if the headline didn’t grab my attention, it doesn’t matter how well written and informative the article was because I’m not going to read it. For scholarly articles (research journals and the like), I think that this video hit the nail on the head with what information the title should provide.

As a science major, I have been reading a lot of scholarly journal articles. The information is very dense and the language is hard to understand. However, the style of these articles follows the advice given in this video. The first thing you read in a journal article is the abstract, which summarizes the entire article and helps you get an idea of what the full article contains. It can help you decide if the work will be helpful before reading through it entirely. There are also headings to differentiate background information, methods, results, the discussion, and the conclusion. Without these in place, I could not imagine having to dissect the article and find relevant information. These headings may not be in place to make important information stand out but it does make the article easier to read and more appealing. These articles also do a good job at avoiding wordiness. Although they contain a lot of information, it is usually concise and relevant.

The F shaped reading pattern is helpful to know. I hope to publish articles in my future and now I have a better idea of where to place text so that it is more likely to be read. And although it isn’t common to include links, I do see how it would be beneficial to hyperlink to websites offering more information pertinent to my research.

I thought this video was pretty interesting. I’ve never really thought about the elements that make up a good website. I feel like all of the information outlined in this video could be summed up into ensuring that you make it clear what your reader is looking at. I know that personally I like websites with bold headings above the different sections that way I know what everything is. It allows me to navigate through the website much faster and find the exact information I’m looking for. I’ve never had to design a website before but if I did I would definitely do it keeping what I learned from this video in mind.

This video was a great resource to help learn about headings, subheadings, summaries, and links. Being able to properly format headings, summaries, and subheadings really help the readability of whatever you are writing. Links are a very important aspect of summary writing when it comes to online documents or articles. Being able to insert a link for the reader to just click on and take you to another important page to gain more information is very helpful for the reader. However, one bad aspect in regards to online links are these “teaser links” the video referred to. Teaser links are becoming more and more prevalent in the online world, but for our purpose, when we are writing professional documents for commercial or other companies, teaser links are not looked as appropriate since they often take you on tangents that are not related to the document. So being able to limit the use of these teaser links, and incorporating useful summaries, headings, and subheadings will add to the overall content of your document.

I found this video helpful in better understanding the importance of formatting headlines, subheadings, article summaries, and links. I believe this will be especially helpful to me this semester during my senior design project. Our final design and construction proposal will be more than 80 pages of narratives, summaries, and technical details. With this in mind, I plan to keep the information in this video in mind when formatting the document as a whole to better help our professors and industry professionals as they review the content of our proposal.

I found that this video analogously treats a document structure just like a road where signposts are used to guide the reader in the way of understanding our webpage or text. Confusing signposts would surely divert the reader away from getting the main points of our writings as they would tend to just skip the whole paragraph just like how a driver would surely make a detour if he or she is not confident with the specific road. The F-pattern is actually what most readers nowadays use when skimming a document so it is our responsibility to adapt that structure into our document design by using the signposts suggested by the video.

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