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The Benefits of Structured Authoring
by Terralíngua      Posted in  June 29, 2014
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The Benefits of Structured AuthoringIf your company generates a lot of content spread around different departments, or you outsource to a team of writers, how can you ensure that each piece of copy has the same format, style and consistency?

If you do not use a content management system then no doubt you will have an editor whose job it is to check every single piece of content for style, format, consistency and any errors.

So, if you have a large brochure to put into print for example, you must wait until the editor has checked every page and made the appropriate changes where necessary.

Your company is paying the editor for his or her time, and you have to wait until he or she has completed the work before you can get your brochure to print. A costly and time consuming process.

If you produce books, manuals or brochures which are published more than once, you will need to update them and re-use the content that does not need to be changed. If you do not use a content management system, the re-usable content will have to be copied and pasted into the document. Another time consuming task that could produce errors. How many times have you read a page of copy and found a paragraph that has been repeated?

What is structured authoring?

Structured authoring is a system that enables content from any source to keep the same structure so each piece of writing will have exactly the same format, style and consistency. Editing time is reduced by increasing the task’s ease.

Machine Structured Authoring

At the forefront of machine structured authoring is DITA. DITA is an XML-based open standard for structuring, developing, managing, and publishing content. Using DITA you can create structures for any number of documents in the form of templates, which enforce consistency. DITA splits up content into topics, like building blocks. Content and format are kept separate, which allows you to create various templates, with each separate piece of copy stored in its appropriate topic group.

This means if you are publishing an instruction manual using a team of authors, every piece of copy that they send back to you will look the same. Whether it has come from the marketing or sales department, or from writers you use remotely.

When it comes to updating and re-using content, you can use DITA’s building blocks to create an entirely new document, without copying and pasting, in your chosen format. Your editor has more time to concentrate on the actual content, so that it is published faster. It is a cost effective and more efficient way of working.

The other great advantage with DITA is that you can allow your department teams to keep the software tools they are accustomed to using, even if they are not compatible with each other. This is because DITA, which uses the XML standard, is able to adapt the formats of other software tools into XML, ensuring that all your business documents are consistent.

Translation and localization are also easier using DITA because you can create a set of global templates, tailoring each set according to the location.

In a survey carried out by The Content Wrangler in 2012, they found that 44% of the companies surveyed were using a structured XML authoring system and that 81% of them were using DITA.

Companies in the survey were asked their biggest documentation challenge, and the majority of replies were about the lack of a formal content strategy and the inability to re-use content effectively.

What is your biggest documentation challenge? Chances are your documentation challenge will be solved through the use of structured authoring with a content management system. The implementation of structured authoring will produce cost savings, increased efficiency and consistent content.

Terralingua is a professional translation and localization agency who can help your company create a plan to maximize your localized content. We have worked with some of the world’s top brands and we can assist your company to communicate effectively in a global environment. Please visit our website for further information.

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