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- BOOK REVIEW: “Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen - July 10, 2017
- 12 Top Characteristics of a Good Technical Writer - July 3, 2017
- What Are the Qualities of a Good Technical Writer? - June 28, 2017
by Kay Inaba, Stuart O. Parsons, and Robert Smillie
This is a small but information-packed (and rather expensive) 136-page volume for all technical writers who are writing procedural guides and/or maintenance and trouble shooting manuals for mechanical systems. The authors clearly have a lot of experience in documenting mechanical systems and working on military documentation projects.
This book is unique for me because I come from a software background and it is easier to find books on technical documentation of software-hardware systems and hi-tech systems. This book is mostly about low-tech systems like bicycles, carburetors, gear systems, engines etc. But the principles in it apply to all systems, low- or hi-tech, all across the board. It is thoroughly illustrated with clear drawings which helps a lot since graphic illustration is an important component of instructional writing.
The chapter headings sound “academic” but the content is anything but. Actually, the book is so user-friendly that it even provides a long list of action verbs, complete with their meanings, that should be a treasured resource for all non-native English speakers and writers.
The chapters are: 1] Introduction, 2] General Considerations, 3] General Presentation principles, 4] Information to Plan the work, 5] Graphics, 6] Language Control, 7] Text and Format Specifications and Rules, 8] Preparing the Instructions, 9] Special Considerations for Maintenance, APPENDIX: Checklist for Developing Easy-to-Use Instructions.
The checklist in the Appendix is also precious. It not only gives you a great step-by-step list of the items that you should have in your documentation, but also refers back to the chapters and sections within the book where you can find more information on the subject. It is a better and more relevant “Table of Contents” that the obligatory one provided in the beginning of the book. As such, it is very instructional indeed. Every such book should have a Checklist as this one.
Overall, I recommend this book highly to all my readers who are in the technical communication field; and especially to those who are writing step-by-step instructions for mechanical systems.
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