Writing a Technical Manual
A technical manual is a printed publication that gives detailed information on specific procedures intended for equipment (i.e., instructions, maintenance, or repair). If you have been assigned the task of writing a technical manual, you may be unsure of where to begin. Because of the research and planning involved in writing a technical manual, it is not uncommon to divide tasks among members of a team. The process involves researching, outlining, organizing data, obtaining graphics, synthesizing that data to into common language, editing, and eventually, the actual publishing of the manual.
Research for a technical manual is the single most important step. Research for a technical piece can mean interviews with experts, designers, or manufactures, and even actual hands-on interaction. Whether you are required to become an expert on the subject at hand or not, as the researcher, it is your responsibility to obtain the most adept information available. Gathering all the necessary information may be as simple as combing the internet or taking a trip to the local library. Just remember, the researcher is responsible for the most crucial part of the technical writing process, and therefore, must do whatever is necessary to compile professional, thorough research to make writing a technical manual easier.
After gathering research, the next step is in the process is to create an outline and organize data. Technical manuals usually follow a very methodical order. They are almost always organized by chapters and often contain an index. Creating an outline or skeleton to apply applicable data to will help with organization and will determine the entire structure of the manual will help when writing a technical manual.
Next, the writer must be able to take all of the research and synthesize it into common, easily understood language. Consistency is extremely important in manual printing. If abbreviations or acronyms are used, they should be the same throughout. A technical manual’s purpose is to guide its readers and therefore should be simple enough to grasp. The use of graphics and illustrations can help readers with visualization.
Once you have drafted your material and selected appropriate imagery, it is then time to edit it. Grammar, spelling, and form should all be taken into account. Because of the nature of a technical manual, professional and concise terminology is vital.
Lastly, it is time to send the publication to be printed. Depending on if you are printing your manual in-house or sending it out to a printing press, your options in terms of size and binding style may vary. Options like this can be discussed with your printer.
In summary, writing a technical manual consists of detailed research, organization, the gathering of compelling visuals, and clear, well-edited language. Once you or your team has accomplished all of these steps, the publication and delivery of the material will be the easiest part. Publishing a manual with Publishing Xpress is easy – contact us today to get started!