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Chapter 21. Generating First-Class Table... > Tips for Creating an Effective TOC

Tips for Creating an Effective TOC

Headings are the real secret to creating a helpful table of contents. If you’ve written clear, understandable headings, your readers will know where to turn for the information they want. The next consideration is the way in which you format those headings—if you don’t use styles Word recognizes, the program won’t collect the headings the way you want. To create the TOC you want, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Use Word’s built-in heading styles—or create your custom styles based on them. When you’re working in Outline view or working with master documents, it’s important that you use Word’s built-in heading styles—Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3. Additionally, you can use the various outline levels—1 through 9—but any other style won’t be included in the table of contents Word generates for you.

  • Make your headings clear and concise. The best headings are short—between four and ten words—and communicate the subject clearly. The headings for your document will vary, of course, depending on content, but if your objective is to help readers find what they want quickly, you’ll be closer to meeting your goal if you keep your headings short, sweet, and smart.

  • Avoid confusing headings. If the tone of your document is conversationally hip, you might be tempted to throw in little humorous sayings or quips as headings throughout your text. As a wise editor once asked, “Would readers understand what this heading means if they opened the book at this page?” If helping readers is your main goal, avoid phrases that might confuse them.


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