Paragraph rules & styles

Structured Authoring

When planning your topic structure you'll need to identify when topics use multiple instances of "optional" content, and especially if the same styles are reused. This may not be an issue in a simple topic, but in a complex topic validation may not complete when there is a combination of optional and required rules reusing the same styles.

Validating generic rules

If you create multiple rules that are too similar, for example, if they use the same Style objects, the structure builder will have difficulty validating the content. This is because there is not enough "unique" information in each rule for the validation to determine specific content/rule combinations. As a result the first possible rule that matches the content will be used, even though the author intended content to validate against a different rule. Validation difficulties are most likely to occur when consecutive rules reuse one or more of the same styles.

Let's look at a scenario where there are three groups "Requirements", "Process", and "Expected Outcomes". Each group is set as optional, each group begins with the same heading style, each group follows with text using Body Text, List Bullet, and List continue.

The user creates a topic using two of the groups, and the content is validated by the structure builder.

In another scenario where the structure uses a combination of optional rules and fixed rules, each group uses the same styles; a heading followed by text using Body Text, List Bullet, and List Continue styles.

  • Introduction (required)
  • Requirements (optional)
  • Process (optional)
  • Expected Outcomes (required)
  • What's Next (optional)

The author has used the following content groups in the completed topic:

  • Introduction (required)
  • Process (optional)
  • What's Next (optional)

The result of this combination is the structure builder cannot identify which rules or content groups the author has used.

  • The Introduction content validates as expected against the Introduction group rule.
  • The Process content validates by the structure builder against the Requirements rules because there is content matching the Requirements rules.
  • The What's Next content validates by the structure builder against the Process rules because there is content matching the Process rules.
  • The structure builder thinks there is missing information because it now wants to validate the final "required" group of rules (Expected Outcomes), but it can't find any additional content in the topic.


There are two possible solutions for this structure. The first option is to change the structure rules and rewrite them so they cover all "similar" content.

Sample 1: In this example the topic must begin with the Introduction content, there must be content for Expected Outcomes, and there can be content for the other three groups. The author creates the topic by including the required information at the correct location, based on the style guide rules.

  • Introduction - required and fixed (must be one instance)
  • Expected Outcomes - required and flexible (must be one instance)
  • Rule Three - optional and flexible (this rule is an amalgamation of Requirements, Process, and What's Next)

Sample 2: In this example there are two rules, one for the Introduction and one for the remaining content.

  • Introduction - required and fixed (must be one instance)
  • Rule Two - required and fixed (must be at least one instance, but there can be four instances when all groups are needed)

The second option is to use different styles for each group of rules. The structure builder can then differentiate between rules based on the allowed styles. However, if you do need to reuse the same styles then the first option is a better solution.