Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. Stacked headings: no-no or no problem? My employer issued new rules for published products that often result in an A-heading immediately followed by a B-heading—that is, no text separating them. Granted, some design-savvy publications may be able to get away with this. But ours are far from design savvy; the headings are large and in the margin, leaving several lines of white space where the first paragraph should be. Can you point to anything to make a case against stacked headings?

A. Headings are determined by the logical organization of content, so no, I can’t make a case against stacking them. We do it all the time. Design should also be determined by content, not the other way around, but if your design is locked in, you’re probably stuck with the awkwardness. My only thought is that you should find a way to bring up the text into the white space. Most word-processing and design-layout programs can accomplish this easily.