Discussing the first half of the “Tech Writing Handbook”
This is where we’ll discuss chapters 0 through 4 of the “Tech Writing Handbook,” which is a free handbook/guide to writing instructions by Kyle Wiens and Julia Bluff from the site iFixit and sponsored by Dozuki, which, as far as I can tell, is a spin-off company that does documentation for larger companies. This is a new reading for me and for this class, and because I’m assigning it, I obviously think it’s useful. The one objection I have to it that I want to get out there right away is I don’t like the title at all. It should be called something like “Instruction Manual Handbook” because “Tech Writing” is a much bigger and broader category than just writing manuals. But with that out of the way, I think this is a pretty useful reading to think about as you begin to think about your instruction writing.
I think this is pretty straight-forward and well-written, so for the most part, I want to hear what you have to say about this in the comments. A few things that I thought were useful:
- Writing instructions is really a form of teaching. Maybe that’s obvious, but I’ve read a lot of instructions where that didn’t seem to be the assumption at all.
- “Know thy product,” and remember, part of this assignment is about learning how to do one of the three tasks that are in the options here. You might not be able to talk to the Google experts, but there are some good support documents out there and of course, I’m here to help too.
- As chapter two makes clear, effective instructions use as few words as possible, a writing skill that is actually a lot harder than you might think. The examples in this chapter are pretty handy, too.
- In chapter 3, they talk a bit about something called a “hallway usability test.” That’s good advice, and we will be talking more about usability tests later on this week, too.
- A lot of the chapter on style is actually about humor. My advice here would be to use with caution. I think you can ben fairly informal/user-friendly in your instructions for this assignment, but the problem with humor is a lot of people aren’t as funny as they think they are and it often falls flat. So sure, be informal, but be careful about being funny.