A blog by Dollar Bill Copying

A manual's gotta do what a manual's gotta do

Putting together a manual can be an intimidating task. It requires comprehensive knowledge and a methodical plan. While Dollar Bill can take care of steps in generating the final product, it's important to be thoughtful in writing and organizing your manual material. I recently discovered the following easy to follow guide that you may find useful:

"A well designed training manual, that is kept up to date, can become a valuable source of information to the organization. An effective manual:

  • Is easy to read and has easy to follow instructions;
  • Has an attractive design;
  • Uses illustrations to enhance understanding;
  • Can be used for future reference.

The following advice has been given by many authors:

  • Write in plain English: Avoid using technical terms, unless it is part of the work place vocabulary. In that case make sure technical terms are explained in simple language/terms. Spell out or explain acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Use the active voice: It is concise.
  • Be consistent in the use of terminology, tone and style of writing.
  • Include illustrations (graphs, flow charts, tables, pictures, screen displays, examples of finished tasks) where appropriate to clarify concepts and enhance understanding. It also adds visual interest. Illustrations should be in proper proportion to nearby text.
  • Write a detailed table of contents that include chapter headings as well as the next level of subheadings.

Another consideration apart from the page layout is the collation of the manual to make the final product easy to use. The following techniques might be helpful:

  •  Section dividers that extend beyond the page width make it easy to find sections, especially if it has the topics printed on the tabs. This is especially appropriate for a bulky manual that is to be used over several sessions.
  • A detailed table of contents at the beginning of sections, in addition to the main table of contents at the front of the manual makes it more accessible.
  • Allow wide enough margins to accommodate the type of binding used, as well as space for users to make key notes.
  • When considering binding, use a method that would allow easy replacement of pages. The manual can be updated easily, which adds to its reference value."

Read entire article. Courtesy of Wikibooks.