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© Ugur Akinci
“Writing Plain Instructions,” with the subtitle “How to write user manuals, online help, and other forms of user assistance that every user understands” by Marc Achtelig is a great addition to the existing literature on technical writing.
Marc, a veteran technical communicator from Germany with two engineering degrees, is a detail-oriented author who covers his topic at great length.
He methodically and patiently takes the reader by the hand, starting from “Writing in General” and gradually progresses into the thick forest of technical writing, by clearing our path tree by tree, branch by branch.
Some of the chapter titles are: “Writing topics,” “Writing sections,” “Writing sentences,” and (yes) “Writing words.”
Here is an example:
2.7.17 data / information
Don’t use the terms data and information interchangeably.
Data is a collection of raw material and facts. Data in itself is useless.
When data is processed and structured in a given context, it becomes
Data can be used both in singular or plural form (“data is …”, “data are …”).
However, use the singular form, which is becoming increasingly more
Information is always used in singular form (“this information is …”). There
are no such forms as “datas” or “informations.”
Yes: The program collects data from various sources.
Yes: You can then process this data to gain information on how ….
Marc gives an unacceptable (No) and acceptable (Yes) example of every word or term that he explains. Here is how it looks:
This is followed by an equally useful chapter on “FAQ: Standard terms and phrases.”
This 343 page book, designed with lots of white space to draw the eye comfortably to the content of each page, is a must reference guide for all technical communicators, beginner or experienced.