TOP 10 TECHNICAL WRITING RULES and GUIDELINES

Behind the scenes, technical writers abide by a set of conventions, rules and guidelines.  Here is the Purple Canary's Top 10:

  • We describe user tasks in the present tense, abjuring the future (unless a task can be performed only at some time in the future).

  • We use simple language and avoid words like abjure.

  • We agonize over whether to bold a colon.

  • We implore our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to use uniform terminology in the software and when describing the product to us.

  • We build documentation plans and schedules (that are usually ignored).

  • We have an eye for design and assign equal weight to the document’s look and feel as well as to its contents.

  • We aim for consistency throughout the documentation set - but we’re wise enough to eschew consistency when it compromises clarity.

  • We build stylesheets to reduce the time spent on producing consistent-looking documentation.

  • We curb our need to include everything we know about a feature because sometimes less is more.

  • We fabricate graphics so that last minute changes in the application's interface can be reflected in the documentation.    

 

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