Unsettling your readers

Dear Style Master: What is an “unsettler”?

– Ruffled writer

Let’s face it, Ruffled: Even though they support very exciting technologies, technical manuals are rarely as absorbing as a good mystery or even the morning newspaper. It’s pretty easy to overlook a critical step in a protocol or a crucial requirement in a software installation guide. As the word implies, unsettlers prod readers into paying attention when they should. You might begin a paragraph with “IMPORTANT!” to call attention to a cautionary note. Other unsettlers are questions posed to the reader, hyperlinks to critical information, checklists, tables, and graphics. Used infrequently, unsettles catch the reader’s attention. (Used with frequency, unsettles lose some of their power.)

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