In technical writing and technical editing we talk a lot about making a text easy for readers to use. In Johnson-Sheehan’s Technical Communication Today (2/e), he suggests that readers “raid” a text for information. I pretty much buy that metaphor when it comes to technical documents, and students and I spend a lot of time discussing strategies for enabling readers to use text easily and quickly. Just a few topics we discuss include: how to use graphics, diagrams, headings, and idea arrangement (e.g., how to create a hierarchy of information with most needed items first). However, lately, I have also been discussing page numbers.
Lots of places are trying to do documentation on the cheap by creating PDF documents that users can download from the web. As a user, I find those documents handy and sometimes print them off. However, the last few documents I have printed have been long and got messed up at the shared printer. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered the documents did not have page numbers! Yes, I could have added them before printing, but shouldn’t they be there already? Aren’t page numbers a good way to make a document more usable? Do we too often take something like page numbers for granted?
What do you think? Do page numbers even matter? Or do you have a different more annoying pet peeve related to writing to rant on about?