I’ve been collecting examples of wildly inconsistent writing lately. I’m not sure why these have stuck out to me, but when I think of book sprints and community writing events, consistency is an important, though sometimes difficult, goal and outcome.
Information products, e.g. manuals, drawings etc, must, besides the technical message, contain certain formal data, which too often is left out. Proper formal data contributes to good order and favours the producer as well as the user of information products.
Bulleted lists are important in technical writing. They summarize information in a manner that is easy to read and absorb. Use them whenever you can to get your information across quickly. Bullets are ideal for things-to-do, equipment, sets, collections, cooking ingredients, and all kinds of other lists.
This Authors’ Guide tells you everything you need to know to write Missing Manual. It starts out by giving you a brief introduction to the Missing Manual way of explaining things and then takes you through the nitty gritty of style guidelines, figure formatting, and so on.
A style guide consists of formats used when creating documentation. Some companies maintain a formal style guide and adhere to strict documentation standards. Other companies may be more informal, but still maintain some semblance of a style guide, even if it is only an example of the documentation they create.
All technical documentation projects benefit from a good content plan or 'doc spec.' The doc spec is a blueprint for a document. It identifies the product, users, source materials, and subject matter experts (SMEs). It also provides a preliminary outline of topics and estimates the work effort to produce the document. The doc spec template is simply a tool that guides you through the document planning and estimating process. Your customized doc spec serves as a record of the who, what, when, why, and how of your project.
Technical writers need to decide what information is to go into a manual, and in how much detail. Such decisions can have a crucial effect on manual quality. Poor decisions can result in published manuals that lack required information, contain unsuitable or unnecessary information, or repeat information in other manuals. To help make better decisions, Hitachi technical writers use Manual Quality Tables. The tables specify what type of information is to go into a manual, the required level of detail, and sources for the information. These tables enable writers to itemize the required contents of a manual before starting to write the manual. In addition, during later revisions, the tables enable writers or reviewers to easily discover any topics that were left out in the original version.
Now that I’ve discussed what kinds of technical documentation to write, I can move on to the question of how to actually develop a writing style that produces great technical documentation. So how do you learn to write (anything) well? There’s only one answer: you’ll learn to write well if you write. A lot.