From the Inside Flap
Many books on technical writing tell you how to develop different parts of technical information, such as headings, lists, tables, and indexes. Instead, we organized this book to tell you how to apply quality characteristics that, in our experience, make technical information easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to find. We hope you will find our approach useful and comprehensive—and we hope you will find the information in this book easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to find!
Is this book for you?
If you are a writer or reviewer of technical information—yes! If you write or review software information, this book may be of even more interest to you because the examples in it come from the domain of software. However, the quality characteristics and guidelines are universal to all information.
Reviewers can be any of the many people who are involved in developing technical information:
Writers Editors Graphic designers Human factors engineers Product developers and testers Customer service personnel Customers (perhaps as early users) Managers
In general, this book assumes that you know the basics of good grammar, punctuation, and spelling as they apply to writing. It does not assume that you are familiar with what makes technical information good or bad.
How to use this book
You can use the book in any of several ways:
Read the book from start to finish. Read about the particular quality characteristic or guideline that interests you. Use the checklists at the end of each chapter and "Quality Checklist" on page 269 to evaluate a piece of technical information against the quality characteristics. Use "Who Checks Which Quality Characteristics?" on page 273 to see what areas you as a reviewer need to check, and read those sections.
Whatever your role in developing technical information, we hope that you'll use this information to build these quality characteristics into the information that you work on.
Changes in this edition
The first and second editions were published in 1984 and 1986 for use mainly by developers of information for IBM software products. This edition is published for more general use and takes into account these changes in technical information:
Online information (such as help, tutorials, and documents) is often more important than printed information in the documentation of software. Online information has become more integrated with the product user interface, through forms such as cue cards and wizards.
As a result of comments from customers and editors, we have:
Added two quality characteristics: concreteness and style
Feedback from users showed that, to them, examples and scenarios are not only very important, but also generally lacking or poorly handled in computer information. The first edition treated examples as part of clarity, but clarity has many other aspects as well. In this edition we have added concreteness as the quality characteristic that focuses especially on examples and scenarios.
In the first edition, style considerations were spread across accuracy, clarity, and visual communication. We decided that style needs its own focus.
Renamed two quality characteristics
The earlier name "entry points" has become "retrievability," and "visual communication" has become "visual effectiveness."
In addition, we have reorganized the book into parts and added several sections:
Introduction to help define terms and set the context for the information Chapters 11 and 12, which treat more than one quality characteristic Annotated bibliography Glossary of terms used in this book Index
The technical editors at IBM's Santa Teresa Laboratory use these quality characteristics to assess the quality of the information they edit. In this edition, we have revised some guidelines and added more examples to ensure coverage of the kinds of common errors found every day.
Gretchen Hargis Ann Kilty Hernandez Polly Hughes Jim Ramaker Shannon Rouiller Elizabeth Wilde --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
"The examples are excellent--right on target and easy to understand and adapt. Even those who don't adopt the entire procedure can profit from the parts, but the greatest value will flow to those who adopt the whole." --Carolyn Mulford, senior writer and editor of Writing That Works
"This is also a book that students can keep for their professional libraries because it will increase in its value to them after they leave class and face real life experiences on the job. It is plain enough for them to understand while they are learning, and at the same time comprehensive enough to support them as professionals." --Elizabeth Boling, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University
"It practices what it preaches. Its guidelines are understandable and appropriate; its examples clear. It contains exactly what writers and editors need to know. It is the book that I would have written." --Cynthia E. Spellman, UnisysThe #1 guide to excellence in documentation--now completely updated! A systematic, proven approach to creating great documentation
- Thoroughly revised and updated
- More practical examples
- More coverage of topic-based information, search, and internationalization
Direct from IBM's own documentation experts, this is the definitive guide to developing outstanding technical documentation--for the Web and for print. Using extensive before-and-after examples, illustrations, and checklists, the authors show exactly how to create documentation that's easy to find, understand, and use. This edition includes extensive new coverage of topic-based information, simplifying search and retrievability, internationalization, visual effectiveness, and much more.
- Focusing on the tasks and topics users care about most
- Saying more with fewer words
- Using organization and other means to deliver faster access to information
- Presenting information in more visually inviting ways
- Improving the effectiveness of your review process
- Learning from example: sample text, screen captures, illustrations, tables, and much more
Whether you're a writer, editor, designer, or reviewer, if you want to create great documentation, this book shows you how!