The Writing Process for Manuals

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  • 0:00 How to Write a Manual
  • 0:39 The Writing Process
  • 1:26 Single Source Publishing
  • 2:12 Guidelines for Writing Manuals
  • 2:39 International Audiences
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Writing a manual is one of the most important technical writing tasks imaginable. As you can imagine, it has to be quite a bit more than just a simple 'how-to.' In this lesson, we look at how to make the best manual possible.

How to Write a Manual

Your company has just invested a great deal of time into a product, and it's up to you to make the whole thing usable. As a technical writer, it's your job to make sure that the method of how to use something just makes sense. However, it's a much more difficult job than it first appears, with plenty of steps along the way.

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the whole process of writing a manual. We will start with the writing process, then proceed on to the advantages of single source documents. From there, we'll look at further guidelines for writing manuals before finally examining how to adapt such documents for an international audience.

The Writing Process

Of course, the first step of producing a manual is writing the document in the first place. That doesn't mean you just start blindly typing. Instead, you should take the opportunity to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the procedures and knowledge of which you are about to write.

Imagine explaining something to a crowd - could you explain this material clearly and concisely, or would you be using a great deal of filler language because you are unsure of what you're doing? Hopefully, the first is more accurate. The usual steps of prewriting, writing, and editing apply here. However, once you've written the document, it is important to take the opportunity to perform some form of usability testing to make sure that the content of the manual is as useful as possible.

Single-Source Publishing

Now that you've got the basics finished, you're ready to post it on your website and be done with it, right? Not quite. A major push towards efficiency in technical writing has led to the adoption of single-source publishing. Single-source publishing allows you to make use of other related resources with similar language.

More simply put, should you have to change the manual for a process that hasn't changed between versions? Of course not! Likewise, if you are putting some basic information about the company in the opening pages, single-source publishing encourages you to make sure of similar information from other documents from your company. While the process of writing a document may be work-intensive, you do get to make use of these resources.

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