Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Advantages Offered by a Good User Manual

When consumers want to know how to use a product they have purchased, they can refer to a user manual. Learning the proper way to use a device will greatly reduce the risk of destroying it by accident. This means less RMA rates, and considerably lower expenses associated with it. Though this is perhaps its best advantage, a user manual can also be beneficial in other ways.

When a manual is well-written, it offers more benefits:

Limits the legal problems linked with the misuse of products

When products are not used the proper way, this can result to severe injuries and even death. This is especially true when it comes to high voltage equipment, lasers, heat generating devices and different mechanical tools, among others. It is important to place the respective tags in manuals as a safety measure to end-users and to protect manufacturers from legal consequences. Furthermore, there should be warning stickers in products where they could easily be seen, like beside the openings and interlocks.

Saves the time and effort of the engineers and salesmen in explaining to end-users

When a manual is comprehensive, engineers and salesmen spend less time explaining to the customers the way to use products or their other features. This, however, requires good technical writing skills. It is vital for the writer to put himself in the customer’s shoes, so he should not be biased. Thus, he should be someone who is not connected to the company.

Serves as a sales brochure

There is no product brochure that offers sufficient info that engineers need when they are in search of a particular product to incorporate into their system. Only a user manual can provide all that you need in one place. Customers usually look for a product’s user manual before they ask for a quotation. When companies want to market their product and every positive feature it has, they can always start with a user manual.

Carries the image of the company

Technical documentation is the way you treat your customers. You want your customers to be well-informed about your products so that they would think that they are not only user-friendly, but a good investment as well. At times, the technical papers let your customers get easily hooked on your product in no time. The enable the engineers to have a good disposition. This way, you gain more positive feedback and successful endeavors.

Editorial Differences

 

  • Having so much access to American television here in Australia means we grow up seeing words spelt the way they spell them the United States. Different to us and mostly not acceptable for Australians to use at school, Uni or in business. Even our spell checkers default at the US spelling often. It drives me nuts when my daughter who is seven says, candy instead of lollies, flashlight instead of torch, drugstore instead of chemist, sidewalk rather than footpath and states she is taking a shower instead of having one. One thing that’s easy to remember is that Americans use ‘z’ in many words, where we use ‘s’ and even pronounce ‘Z’ contrarily. Examples of ‘Z’ usage; antagonize versus antagonise, analysed and analysed, appetizer and appetiser and so on. Americans often also shorten words by removing a letter such as, anesthetic and anaesthetic, archeological and archaeological, mold versus mould, favor as opposed to favour and behaviour and behaviour. There are word alterations like center versus centre, color versus colour, tire and tyre, plow and plough and so on and on. So, who have we to blame or thank for all this American drama? The nineteenth century, American lexicographer, Mr Noah Webster, of the dictionary fame. He supposed making the changes away from British language would make America more superior and set them aside. It has certainly set them aside.

 

  • The Oxford comma, Harvard comma or serial comma. There are supporters for and against the use of it. It is also known as the pretentious comma and at the end of the day is optional and up to the author unless following a particular style. We in Australia don’t use it as often as Americans although there are arguments that it clarifies meanings within sentences that may be confusing otherwise. What is it? It is the comma positioned directly before the coordinating conjunction such as: and, or, or nor in a sequence of three terms or more. An example using the Oxford comma is: I have a recipe, a pot, and an oven. Not using the comma would look like: I have a recipe, a pot and an oven.

 

  • ​The exclamation mark has been called the cheap whore of punctuation. My thoughts are, there is a place for it, but professionally it does not belong. The more the merrier also should not apply and as F. Scott Fitzgerald said ‘Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.’ It’s a useful way of conveying emotions, irony, annoyance, or friendliness when used six at a time for instance as a text, or on Facebook, email or any other electronic means. In addition, this sets up the foundation for others to respond similarly with 17!!!!! or ???????, such as, ‘I just jumped out of a plane and my parachute opened!!!!!!’ Really?????? Cool!!!!!!’ Ridiculous.

 

  • I love the logogram ampersand (&) which epitomises ‘and’ but when used correctly. Not for use willy nilly or in some haphazard manner. It does not save on your word count students. An ampersand originated from Latin of course, as et which meant and. An example of good use could be in a business title like Anders & Wallace Editing or in academic references such as (Anders & Judd, 2007). It wouldn’t be appropriate to use to write something like, ‘They put the bricks & mortar against the wall.’

 

  • Font use looks like fun. But there’s a place for countless font practice like on a circus banner or in a comic. That’s right people comic sans as whimsical as it is, should be used in a comic – and nowhere else. Particular fonts work better on hardcopy (times new roman, courier or fonts with feet/serif) and others better on screen (Sans-serif, Helvetica, Century gothic, Verdana, Arial or fonts without feet/sans serif). Although pixel resolution has changed you still need to consider small devices. I think use of a particular font or fonts can really affect readability so my advice is not to ‘blend it up’. That’s okay when making a mixed tape but not for a letter or other document. Keep your readers. Don’t use impact for a whole page, or kitch it up with pages of Bradley hand and papyrus… well pffftt. I have no idea what wingdings is for.

 

Freelance Technical Writer Tips

For your products and services to sell well in the market, you need to present them to your audience in a simplified manner. People cannot digest complex information so you have to simplify them. This is where technical writers or digital content specialists come in. They simplify what is complex. But how do you find a good one?

Among the things you may want to look into when hiring your technical writer are effective communication skills, experience in your industry, and satisfied clients you can verify. Other than these, you can land on the best writer if you follow these tips.

Make your own list of references.

As you read any marketable material like brochure or even websites, you will come across interesting and easy to understand writing piece. Despite the technical nature of the topic, it is presented in an engaging and simple content. What you should do is to list down the name of the writer for future reference. You may also want to get more information about him or her through your business connections.

Read the writer’s portfolio before you hire.

Every technical writer has their own style of writing. Make sure that this aspect matches the specific voice of your brand. Look for clarity as well. For you to gauge how the writing impacts your readers, try to pass on the portfolio to other people in your business.

Know your needs and match the skill of the writer.

Generally speaking, a good technical writer has a broad range of skills and characteristics. But know as well that not all technical writing is the same. A writer for pharmaceutical industries may not exactly need to have the high level of technical comprehension that writers in weapons defense industry possess. Your brand may require a higher degree of technical knowledge than others. Make sure to match the technical skill.

Hire a writer with multiple credentials and expertise.

Think about versatility. Freelance technical writers may work to your advantage as they can do more than producing content. With the nature of their job, they have quite acquired other expertise that you can benefit from.

Listen to the recommendations of your writer.

Prepare for innovative thinking. Your chosen writer will suggest some solutions that can make your documentation even better. Listen carefully to these fresh and smart ideas.

How Structured Authoring Can Improve Your Technical Writing

The idea of structured authoring can be a confusing one to begin with, but once it is implemented effectively and in its most accessible form, it can save you a huge amount of time and resources.

Structured authoring is becoming increasingly used within technical writing documents, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Updated specifications

If you are performing technical writing as part of a car manufacturing process, for example, then you may have multiple documents all relating to a certain area, such as the engine size.

If the designers of the car decided to amend the specifications on the engine, then all of the other documentation, which may be hundreds of documents, would all need to be manually updated in order to be correct.

By using an XML framework, it can be configured so that there is one source of information and by simply altering this one section all of the other documents are updated automatically, saving you what could potentially be a huge amount of painstaking work.

Ensuring information is current

Technical writing, by definition, is required to be more exact than most other forms of writing, so ensuring that the information given is correct, is of the utmost importance.

Not only can outdated information look unprofessional from a client’s point of view, it can also have large domino effects when used in technical writing.

Reusable content

Being able to easily reuse content is important when devising an efficient content management system for a business, or organization.

While other forms of content may also use sections such as disclaimers, legal notices and terms of use, when it comes to technical writing there is much more information that is going to be repeated from previous content, that you are able to use.

By allowing each of these sections to be amended from one single source of information, you can reuse this information by simple inputting this field into your new technical writing document.

Content management

As an increasing amount of information becomes more readily stored electronically, ensuring that you have the right content management system in place to deal with this, is going to become a progressively more important task.

The technical writing sector is no different and by embracing the structured authoring and XML framework ideas, businesses can manage their content proficiently and effectively.

The use of meta tags and other identifying information allows for easy storage and use, ensuring the author can easily search for certain documents, or sections. This becomes incredibly useful when you are adding content to a new document, which you know exists elsewhere.