Tips for Writing Advanced Instructional Manual
You have to do your best to write a manual that is simple to follow. Users of different experiences and knowledge will depend on it. You have to learn how to make a user-friendly advanced instructional manual that is both understandable and informative. Technical writing experience might not be enough for this task. It is better to do your homework which is to read this guide.
Advanced Instructional Manual – Step-by-Step Instructions
These instructions are made for beginners and writers who are already familiar with the basics. You can already have some experience with writing technical texts. However, even if you don’t, you can always learn. Follow these instructions to become a better technical writer.
Learn Your Audience
Find out who your major reader is. Gather the information about users who buy the product, including the average age, nationality, and gender. It will be helpful once you begin to make a plan on how much information to include and which details to provide. Even the presentation of information can be modified based on the audience. For example, if you write a manual for IT professionals, you don’t need to explain technical terms to them.
Define the Purpose of this Instructional Manual
Spend some time with your colleagues from the technical department and find the main purpose of the manual. Ask them about the product and what it offers to the end-users. If the manual teaches them how to use the product or how to make one item by combining the details, it is quite different from the instructions on repairing.
Make a Plan
Think about the recommendations users have to follow to reach the goal. Separate these tips into logical steps. Make sure that every step is well-described. The manual must be simple to get and easy to perform. Think about simple words and phrases for users who don’t want to call for professional help. Once the first draft is there, read it, and you may find some extra steps needed. Always reread everything you write.
Formalize the Steps
This step requires some writing skills from you. You have to turn the plan you’ve created into understandable “how-to” instructions. You can read WikiHow or similar sources to get inspired. Don’t forget to make a list of all the supplies that must be used. Underline important instructions and make lists.
Graphics in the Manual
Graphics are highly important for technical documentation. It helps to see the details instead of imagining them. Illustrations, graphs, and charts will not only ease your work but also help users. Choose these elements wisely; they don’t have to contain too many small details, must be visible, and simple. Once you are done picking them, find the most appropriate place to locate each piece so that users don’t need to spend time searching for a necessary picture.
Extra Sections in the Manual
Once you complete the step-by-step guide for users, pay attention to the whole structure of the manual. It must contain sections like an introduction and conclusion. Follow these helpful tips:
- An introduction always starts with the “thank-you” words for users who have chosen the product. It must also contain a brief description of the purchased item;
- A conclusion is a short summary with the company’s contacts and details on how to address them if there are any questions left.
Shorten the Details
No matter how great your knowledge about the product is, you have to stick to the plan. At some point, you will feel a strong desire to inform the audience about everything you know on the subject. While you definitely have only the best intentions in mind, you risk losing your readers or confusing them for good. Be brief on the topic. Make sure that the reader will understand your point. The main goal of the manual is to quickly explain how things work. Get directly to the point of each step, and try not to provide more than one thought in each paragraph.
Advanced Instructional Manual – Check the Information
It can be a job for another member of your team, but in the end, it is you who are responsible for the reliability of data. If your assistant or teammate describes something with a mistake, or you get something wrong, the whole manual will be useless. It means that you always have to check the information you write.
If you can’t test the product, you have to watch videos, at least. Don’t trust other people’s words since there is always the chance you misunderstand them. Everything matters in technical instructions, which means you need to double-check everything, from the steps you perform to the words you use. Make sure your instructions are crystal clear.
Double-check the Data
You have to take a small pause in-between writing and proofreading. Let your brain forget the words you’ve written. Now you can read the manual. Make sure it is free from errors. If the sentence is too long and confusing, separate it in two. If you work in a team, you can ask your teammate to read the text and share opinions.
Format the Instructional Manual
It is better to organize the document in a specific way so that the user can find the required paragraph. For this, you need to format the guide. Follow the next instructions.
- Choose the font that will be visible for users. The most popular choice is Arial or Times New Roman.
- Make sure the letters are not too small. Under the 10-point type, it is hard to read the text.
- Highlight and underline the most important parts of the text.
- The list with steps has to be visibly separated from the text. Don’t forget to put numbers for each step.
- Always leave hints on where to find the additional information the user might need.
Instructional Manual – Write for Yourself
Think about the best manual you’ve ever read. Remember why you found it perfect. If you have never had such an experience, try to imagine everything you wanted to see in the manual. Try to spend at least two days on research and writing. If you don’t have that time, ask for help in proofreading. Make sure that end-users will understand you. If you have more tips, share them in the comments below. Have you ever written any manuals?