Continued from page 1
7. Fix mistakes - "Re-enter path"
8. Provide error info at end of tasks where necessary (rule of thumb, one error info note per three tasks is a good average)
9. Don't break up instructions with notes, cautions, warnings, and exceptional cases - Put these things at end of instruction, wherever possible
10. Be brief, don't spell everything out, especially things that can be taken for granted
11. Omit conceptual and note information where possible, or link to it. Perhaps provide expansion information at end of topic, plus maybe a note that there are other ways to perform task/goal, but this is easiest
12. Sections should look short and read short
13. Provide closure for sections (e.g., back to original screen/goal)
14. Provide an immediate opportunity to act and encourage exploration and innovation (use active invitations to act, such as, "See for yourself..." or "Try this..." rather than passive invitations such as, "You can...")
15. Get users started quickly
16. Allow for reading in any order - make each section modular, especially goals, but perhaps tasks (definitely if they can be performed in different order)
17. Highlight things that are not typical
18. Use active voice rather than passive voice
19. Try to account for user's environment in your writing
20. Before writing anything, ask yourself “Will this help my reader?”
By building these practices into your documentation process, you’ll find that your online help becomes easier to write, shorter, and far more usable for your reader. What’s more, your boss will love you!
* Glenn Murray is an advertising copywriter and heads copywriting studio Divine Write. He can be contacted on Sydney +612 4334 6222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.divinewrite.com for further details or more FREE articles.