Structured authoring

Structured authoring can mean many things, but in the context of this document, structured authoring means a standardised, methodological approach to content creation incorporating systematic labelling, modular, topic-based architecture, constrained writing environments, and the separation of content and form.

The term structured authoring is applied to a wide variety of writing approaches, to the point that the meaning is virtually lost. Some say that most technical writing is "structured authoring" or "structured writing", because the writing process is approached in a methodical structured way. According to this definition, all documents with some sort of structure must have been the result of a structured approach.

Methodological or scientific approaches to writing technical documents became prominent in the 1960s, with Robert Horn's structured writing ideas (later to become Information Mapping) and the STOP methodology (developed at Hughes-Fullerton) being two of the intellectual products of that era. The development of SGML almost two decades later enabled structured approaches to be enforced by software tools. The development of XML in the late 1990s transformed the way in which knowledge was stored. XML permitted structured information standards to be created for the storage of knowledge and data for all types of industries. XML allowed standards such as Chemical Mark-up Language, Mathematics Mark-up Language, Channel Definition Format, Scaleable Vector Graphics, Open Document Format, and hundreds of others to be created by industry, government and special interest groups. In the documentation field, new forms of structured writing approaches emerged, enabled by XML and the new culture of the open source movement. Amongst these standards was DITA.

A modern definition of what we now mean by structured authoring is:
A standardised methodological approach to the creation of content incorporating information types, systematic use of metadata, XML-based semantic mark-up, modular, topic-based information architecture, a constrained writing environment with software-enforced rules, content re-use, and the separation of content and form.