How to Write a Technical Manual From Scratch

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Writing a technical manual is a straightforward task that involves organizing steps and creating clear, concise wording. The goal of a technical manual is to provide information on how to perform an operation in the least amount of steps and in the clearest possible manner. Technical manuals often involve the collaboration of many people, including subject matter experts, editors and technical writers. Since technical manuals may also undergo constant revision and updates, communication between the parties involved is crucial to development of a manual.

Determine the style of the technical manual by either creating a simplified style guide or by following an existing style guide, such as the Microsoft Style Guide for Technical Manuals. A style guide will help in creating the skeleton of the manual and ensure consistency.

Write the steps for the procedure starting with a verb. If consultation is needed to write the steps, interview and ask questions of subject matter experts. This will ensure the validity of procedures; otherwise, steps may not be logical and/or out of order. Steps should be logically ordered and separated into logical chapters or divisions.

Add graphics and illustrations to steps that require them. Remember to add figure numbering and titles to each graphic/illustration.

Create a table of contents and an index for easy reference.

Add a change log or update sheet that records each change and update to the manual for future revisions and releases. Technical manuals should always be edited by someone other than the technical writer, preferably by a professional editor.

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About the Author

Charlie Sim is a professional writer with experience in corporate copywriting and business proposal writing for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as technical writing in XML for the U.S. government. He has also been published on Trails.com and eHow. He is a graduate of Rutgers University.

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