Structured Authoring

Structured authoring consists of a collection of standards, technologies, and best practices prevalent in the field of technical communication. “Structure” in this context implies that individual documents comply with a specific set of software-enforced rules governing allowable elements, attributes, and relationships. There can be many different sets of rules available to writers, but they declare only one rule set for each document. Software applications such as parsers then validate the individual document against its declared rule set. The enforced level of consistency allows teams to use more granular building blocks (topics, library blocks), to assemble them predictably via maps, and to automate workflows for authoring, content management, and publication.Frequently implemented with structured authoring projects are the following best practices for content development:

  • Semantic markup: The names of elements and attributes describe their content, but not their styling or presentation.
  • Information typing: Content of the same type — task, concept, reference — is implemented in specific topic types.
  • Minimalism: Information that is not directly relevant to the focus of the topic is removed or relocated.
  • Topic-based authoring: Content is developed in small-ish modules. Each module (topic) reflects a specific information type, validates against a particular rule set (DTD), and is referenced by maps to construction publications.
  • Metadata-based navigation and assembly: Processors read structured metadata in sources to generate navigation links and/or content assemblies dynamically.
  • Content reuse by reference: Content in maps, topics, blocks, or phrases can be reused by reference in multiple contexts.
  • Source-side analytics: Teams can query structured sources to generate reports on content freshness, reuse, and relationships.