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Structured Authoring, DTDs and XML

In structured authoring, the information types, section headings and format are controlled by the template creators, not by the document author. This promotes consistently planned and formatted documents across an organisation and allows the author to concentrate on producing well-written content to meet a specific objective (the subject of the section).

A structured authoring template is called a document type definition (DTD) or schema. A strict DTD, such as one of the DITA XML DTDs will only allow a certain order of content. For example, the order may be title > overview > prerequisites > procedure > step > step > step > result. The XML element called <step>, for example, is nested under the <procedure> element and cannot exist anywhere else without breaking the structure of the DTD. The structure is tested by a validation parser in the authoring tool. The tool will not publish the document if validation fails.

The value of structured authoring and XML increases if it is used in a modular documentation system. Because the information units are built to standard structures, they can be re-used and single-sourced, in several different documents and in various formats.

For a more comprehensive description of structured authoring and the value of XML, see the following article: Semantic, Structured Authoring: The Challenge for Technical Writers.