Chapter 0

Welcome!

So, you’ve decided to write a manual. We extend our hand in hearty congratulations of the do-it-yourself moxie that led you here. Welcome to the world of technical communication!

A broken car

Now, at this very moment, you may be chuckling to yourself, “Technical communication … Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

We get it. Bad manuals happen … a lot. It’s a universal experience: You take Junior’s Christmas gift out of the box, crack open the assembly manual, and, suddenly, everything goes horribly, horribly wrong. Three hours later, all you have to show for your effort is a mutant tricycle. Junior will not be pleased.

The best way to learn something is to have an expert teach you. But manuals are the next best thing. Great manuals, like the ones from iFixit or Mackie, are teachers.

And we suspect that’s why you’re here. You want to write a manual that actually teaches people how to do things.

We want to help. This program will teach you how to write how-to guides, work instructions, and service manuals — from planning to writing to publishing. We’ll also help you avoid the most common pitfalls of tech writing.

Manuals are important. Whether you’re writing about how to perform maintenance on a CNC machine, use video editing software, bake a soufflé, or rebuild an engine, you’re teaching someone something new. If your manual succeeds, the reader will have done something that wasn’t possible without your help. And that’s pretty amazing.

A fixed car