A bold heading or panel, often starting a new page, that makes it clear that a new section is starting.
Readers struggle to search and explore very long or modular documents if there are no navigation signposts to help them along the way. When key transition points (for example between annexes) are not prominently marked, readers take more time finding what they are looking for, or may not find it altogether.
Use prominent section starts in any document where sections may be intended for a different audience or purpose: a very prominent starting point announces a new ‘conversation’ with the reader.
In some cases, different document sections need have a distinctive start page if they need to be copied and distributed separately (e.g. pass-through terms, technical appendices, price lists, checklists...)
A prominent section start makes it easier to find a section, or to signal a key transition (for example between annexes) – especially in very long or highly modular documents.
Chunking is an important way to make information clearer. Sentences and paragraphs are examples of language chunks that help us process language and ideas. Prominent section starts extend this to a larger scale, but to be effective they need to signal their ‘boundaries’ very clearly.
Additionally, clear sections are a good discipline for the writer. Thematically coherent sections make it easier to spot whether a topic or clause would fit better somewhere else in the document.
© 2019 Rob Waller.
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