Use your table of contents to check consistency of headings

Editors make many choices about style to meet the needs of the audience and the message. While there is not always right and wrong in editing, it is important to be consistent within a document.

A good tool to check consistency of headings throughout a document is the table of contents, which is often generated automatically from the headings used within the document.

Scan through the table of contents and check capitalisation of headings, use of colons or long dashes, use of acronyms, and consistent style, format and level of detail. Check that numbering of headings, whether done manually or automatically, is also consistent.

Check table and figure titles and appendix titles too. Are units of measurement, acronyms, dates or sources used in some titles but not others?

If you spot an inconsistency, change the heading in the body of the document, then re-generate or update the table of contents and check again.

Developing a style sheet is another tool for consistency. Editors use style guides and sheets to ensure consistency in style issues such as spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, dates and numbers in their editing decisions.

Consistency is part of making it easy for the reader by avoiding distractions.

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For editing and writing inquiries, please contact me at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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