Tips for Creating Useful Manuals
As you go about your daily work, you might be required to provide clients with documents that will provide them with a guide on how to do something or accomplish a task they are probably not familiar with. This is where your manual writing skills will come into play.
Writing skills of any kind are important. Therefore, as you go about crafting a manual, you must remember all the rules pertaining to good writing. By writing effectively, you will have an easier time dealing with clients who have no patience for bad writing in manuals.
Manuals, you also need to remember, are important. Of course, the product that the manual accompanies need to be well-designed for the manual to work. By first working at providing a well constructed and conceived product, you won’t have to pour your heart into writing a manual. Rather, the manual will be short, easy to understand, and relatively simply to follow.
That said, here are a couple of tips for creating useful manuals:
1. Create a Grand First Impression
Most people never actually look at a manual. Instead, they simply toss it aside because they assume it is too difficult to follow. Whenever this happens, the writing team, the product, and the user all suffer in one way or another.
To ensure that this does not transpire, therefore, you need to write a useful manual – one with the ability to create a positive and strong first impression.
Use the guidelines below to do exactly that:
- Avoid making your manual look like a text book
- Effectively and purposefully use colour
- Ensure the manual is light in weight
- Include help-line numbers
- Provide tonnes of white space
- Use a clean, readable font
- Use diagrams and pictures for illustration
- Use landscape formatting
- Use paper that is on par with the overall quality of your product
2. Think like a Novice
While preparing a manual, you probably know the processes inside and out. This means that you will assume that your reader has the same level of knowledge. To ensure this does not hinder the usefulness of the manual you write, think like a newbie in the business.
This means that you should step back, look at the subject from new angles, and assume you know nothing about the topic/product you are creating a manual for. By so doing, you will be able to come up with more actionable manuals.
3. Understand the Objective
Know the exact reason behind the manual. This way, you will be better placed to understand what is required and what should be covered in the manual. This tip is useful because it will help you avoid confusion and overload, which is the direct result of adding too many details to a manual.
4. Create an Outline
Before you jump right into the steps for the manual, first take a step back and come up with a clear outline of everything that will be covered in the document. This outline should, for instance, include all main sections and subsections.
By creating an outline, you will be better placed to ensure that the process you adopt in your writing makes sense. In the same way, every section in the manual will end up being structured more consistently.
All in all, keep in mind that you want your manual to be useful, easy to understand, and properly formatted. As long as you work all of these into your writing, you are always going to end up with amazing manuals.