Chapter 11

After you write

Creating your instructions is just the beginning. Once your first draft is done, it's time to test it in the field, edit for concision, deploy your work, listen to your users, and manage future updates.

Editing

edited documents

Edit, edit, edit. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this step. Edit for organization, content, flow, and grammar. It’s important that your readers get a polished product. After all, when it comes to instructions and manuals, proofreading can be the difference between a snappy sentence and a disaster.

Take these two sentences: “The ultimate guide for summertime fun: grilling kids and family” and “The ultimate guide for summertime fun: grilling, kids, and family.”

That’s right. The only thing standing between you and cannibalism is a handful of commas. That’s why we edit and proofread over and over again. Then, when we think it’s perfect, we get other people to edit it, too.

Read your manual aloud to yourself. You’ll find errors if you can listen to it.

Usability testing

Test out your instructions on someone new. Ask your tester to follow the instructions from beginning to end. If they wind up with a finished product instead of a monstrosity, then you’ve done your job as a writer. Be sure to ask your tester what sections were hard to understand and why.

Update

Have a plan for updating your documentation. If you write a manual, you’ve got to commit yourself to keeping it relevant. Read through your documentation every six months or so to make sure that it is still up-to-date.

You’re ready

Congratulations. We tip our hat to you. Welcome to our technical writer cabal. It’s small, but exclusive. We’ve even got a secret handshake, which we’ll teach you once we acquire a secret clubhouse. But don’t hold your breath. We’re currently in limbo, hampered by the fact that we won’t tell our real estate agent the secret location of our super-secret clubhouse.

Congratulations!