10 Anonymous (And Not-So-Anonymous) Tips For Writing Technical Manuals

Writing technical manuals is a lot like cooking. You’re going to need to find the right ingredients, mix them in the right proportions, and then bake them for long enough that they come out perfectly golden brown on top. In this article, we’ll discuss the “ingredients” of good technical writing.

Technical Writing Tips – YouTube
1. Embrace clarity and simplicity in your writing.
2. Know your audience and tailor your content accordingly.
3. Use visuals strategically to illustrate complex concepts.
4. Break down information into manageable sections.
5. Ensure consistency in terminology and formatting.
6. Incorporate real-world examples to enhance understanding.
7. Make your instructions actionable and easy to follow.
8. Review and revise your manual for accuracy and clarity.
9. Seek feedback from users to improve the manual over time.
10. Keep up with industry trends and best practices.

1. Use Short Sentences

A sentence is a basic unit of writing in a language and consists of two parts: a topic (noun), which is often a person, place, thing, or idea; and an action (verb). 

The best technical manuals are made up of short sentences because they’re easier to read, understand and remember than long ones. 

They also translate more accurately across languages because translators don’t have to try to make sense of convoluted syntax along with your content ideas. 

And if you’re writing for an international audience especially one that speaks another language you’ll want all the help you can get when it comes to making sure all your readers easily understand what you’re trying to communicate!

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2. Avoid Run-On Sentences

This is a biggie, so we’re going to break it down into sections:

Run-on sentences are hard to read and difficult to edit. You don’t want your readers struggling with the technical manual you wrote; 

They’ll be frustrated, which means that they’re likely not going to use it as intended or recommend your product/service/whatever to their friends (and if they do recommend it, they may find themselves doing so while cursing you under their breath). 

The same goes for editors: if they have trouble editing run-ons, then those edits will make their way back into the final copy of your document which means that those errors will end up on page 37 instead of page 35 when what should have been a simple correction turns into another round of updates because something went wrong somewhere along the way.

3. Avoid Passive Voice

You’ve probably heard of the passive voice. It’s when the object of a sentence is the subject, so it sounds like you are being acted upon instead of doing the acting. The example below illustrates this:

The report was written by John Smith.”

This sentence has an active verb, but it’s still in passive voice because “was written” is not actually doing anything and could easily be swapped out with other verbs like “was created by John Smith.” 

Sentences in passive voice tend to sound awkward and are often hard to read because they use more words than necessary to convey meaning. They can also be used as a way for writers to hide who did something bad or embarrassing, which isn’t usually what we want when writing technical manuals!

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4. Use The Active Voice

Writing in the active voice is a little more difficult than writing in the passive voice, but it’s worth the effort. In addition to being more engaging and direct, using an active voice makes your writing easier to understand because you don’t have to be constantly thinking about who did what.

The passive voice is useful when you don’t know who did something or when it’s not important who did something. It can also be used when you want to emphasize an action instead of its doer. For example: “

The robber was arrested by the police.” (In this sentence, we’re more interested in knowing that someone was caught than who caught them.) Or: “The police arrested the robber.” (Again, we’re more interested in knowing that someone was arrested than who did it.)

5. Keep Everything Simple And To The Point

As with any writing, your technical manual needs to be simple and easy to understand. Keep in mind that the reader is likely an employee who just started working at the company or someone who will be using your product for their job. 

They are not going to want to read large blocks of text, so keep it short and sweet. If you have 500 words on one page, consider cutting 200 words out of there!

The longer a sentence is, the harder it will be for readers to get through it without getting lost or confused somewhere along the way. This can lead them to feel frustrated about reading your document (and not wanting to do so again). To avoid this happening:

Use short sentences; use lots of them! Also, try breaking up long paragraphs into smaller chunks by making each point its paragraph instead of grouping together all points under one big header (which can make everything feel even longer than necessary).

Use simple language whenever possible don’t try using fancy words if they don’t add anything extra meaning-wise!

6. Write In Step Order

The best way to explain how to do something is with a numbered list. This can make it easier for readers who want a step-by-step approach, but it also forces you to think about the steps in sequential order. Be sure that your numbered lists are not too long or complicated; if they are, then use bulleted lists instead.

You could also use tables in your manual if the information can be presented in rows and columns. Tables work well when there is data that overlaps between steps (e.g., ingredients or tools needed). 

And if you want an even more visual display of information, flowcharts are another option. They show how different parts relate to each other and help readers understand complicated processes more easily than just reading the text would on its own!

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7. Keep Clean, Clear, And Concise Language

You’re writing your manual for a very specific audience, so you have to make sure that your words are clear and understandable to them.

The first step is to keep it simple. Don’t use jargon, abbreviations, or acronyms unless the reader will be familiar with those words, and even then, stick to the ones that don’t require explanation. If you find yourself using too many complicated words, try cutting down on them by looking for synonyms or alternatives that might sound less complicated.

You also need to avoid using words with which your readers may not be familiar; if they don’t know what something means, they won’t be able to understand it when you start talking about how it works about the product being described in your manual. 

The same goes for shortening common terms (such as “a” versus “an”) or adding unnecessary syllables (“a composite”). It’s fine if they’re already known by everyone else who will be reading this document; 

However, if there’s even one person out there who isn’t familiar with such linguistic shortcuts then they’ll probably end up confused when trying to learn new terminology!

8. Edit Out What Isn’t Needed-Go Back To #5!

Editing is a crucial part of writing technical manuals, but it’s also one of the most overlooked. Editors can help you make sure that your instructions are clear and concise and in the right order.

At their core, technical manuals are meant to be simple and easy to understand and they should stay that way. 

This goes double when you’re writing something for people who aren’t experts in your field! So when you edit out unnecessary words or steps, keep those things that do matter in there as much as possible so your readers don’t get confused or frustrated by what should be easy for them.

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9. Don’t Be Redundant With Labeling Or Explain Things Once They’ve Been Explained Before

You don’t want to be redundant. You also don’t want to get too wordy or complicated. Use simple language, and keep it short and sweet. You don’t need to explain things more than once if you’ve already explained them earlier in the document. Stick with the active voice: “The file is saved,” not “Saving of the file has been completed.”

Doing so will help your readers understand what they’re reading faster, which makes for happier users!

10. If Your Boss Tells You To Do Something

The best way to handle a request from your boss is to do it. Don’t argue, don’t ask why don’t ask for an explanation, don’t ask for an example, and don’t ask for a more detailed explanation.

There are two reasons why these questions are counterproductive:

They give the impression that you aren’t willing to do what’s asked of you unless you fully understand it. This makes you appear lazy or uncooperative (or both).

It forces the person requesting to provide extra information about the task at hand information that could be avoided if you just did what was asked in the first place.

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There you have it, 10 tips for writing technical manuals. While this may seem like a lot to keep in mind when you’re trying to write a document (and it is!), it’s important to remember that all these things work together and are crucial for creating a clear and concise manual. 

If you follow these rules, your technical manual will be easy enough for any user or reader with minimal experience with the product/technology at hand.

Further Reading

For more insights into creating engaging technical guides and improving your technical writing skills, you might find the following resources helpful:

12 Amazing Tips When Putting Together a Technical Guide to Engage Your Readers: Discover practical tips to enhance the engagement of your technical guides and ensure your readers grasp complex concepts.

Document Design in Technical Writing: Explore the importance of document design in technical writing, and learn how visual elements contribute to effective communication.

Steps Involved in User Guide Preparation: Delve into the step-by-step process of preparing user guides and technical documentation to ensure a seamless user experience.


How can I make my technical guides more engaging for readers?

Engage your readers by incorporating visuals, breaking down complex information into manageable sections, and using clear and concise language.

What role does document design play in technical writing?

Document design is crucial in technical writing as it enhances readability and understanding. Proper formatting, headings, fonts, and visual elements contribute to an effective document.

What are the essential steps in preparing a user guide?

User guide preparation involves understanding the target audience, gathering accurate information, organizing content logically, incorporating visuals, and ensuring user-friendliness.

How can I simplify complex technical concepts in my guides?

Break down complex concepts into smaller, easily digestible sections. Use analogies, real-world examples, and clear language to help readers grasp intricate information.

How do visuals contribute to effective technical documentation?

Visuals, such as diagrams, charts, and illustrations, provide visual cues that aid in understanding complex concepts. They make the content more engaging and enhance comprehension.