The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Writing User Documents


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If You Must Write on Your Own...


I'm an avid do-it-yourself'er, so I can understand your desire  to learn how to create Great User Documents on your own.  Here are some guidelines, based on the materials that I present on this site.

However, if you are being paid to write (and you are a new writer), then you can save lots of time and money (and reduce your stress) by investigating my complete, hands-on, guide-you-through-the-writing-process, guaranteed Course.

Here are the guidelines...

First, Read this Article

Read my article on the First Things to Do on a Writing Project.  This will get you started on the project.

Next Get Some Resources

You will need an editor to help you throughout the project.  My article on editors will help you get over some of your writing fears, as well as to use your editor to your best advantage.

You Will Need a Writing Structure

You will need a method to write.  Will you use the waterfall technique, where you learn about the project, produce and get approval for an outline, then go away and write?  If so, you are in for surprises at the end of the project, as I describe in this "problems" page.

I recommend that you write your User Document using the method shown in this flowchart.  With this writing method, you will divide the outline topics into Components.  You will write each component separately, and submit it for review.  When you have written (and had approved) all of the components, you assemble them into the completed User Document.

But to make your information usable, you have to provide great Access to that information.  This enables your reader -- no matter what type of documentation -- to find the material that he/she needs, while skipping what is not needed.  You can provide good access by using meaningful headings, good titles, an index, and table of contents.

Here is an outline and some description of an effective way to create great User Documentation.  You can use it to set up your own writing method.

Take Some Time for Yourself

You will need to get yourself in the correct frame of mind to create your User Document.  You need to adjust your attitude to one of compassion for your Reader.  You should also eliminate these two destructive writing attitudes.

Relieve some of your writing stress by doing some meditation. 

Be prepared to capture ideas for your writing at all times: carry around a pad & pencil.

Have a method so that when you are writing if you are missing information you can continue, and easily make note to find the information later.

Some Books and Web Links

Here is a bibliography.

Here are some useful articles about writing and the new writer.

How Long Will This All Take?

It can take you months to assimilate the writing knowledge and create the structures to create great User Documents.  You can look at this blatant advertising for my Course.

Or Do It the Quick, Easy Way

If someone is paying for your time to write the User Document, then they should be easily persuaded to support you in this project.  The fastest, easiest, least stress and guaranteed way is to take my course: "Creating Great User Documentation: A Hands-On Course."  The "hands-on" part is you actually creating the User Documentation for your real-life work.

All of the material that you have been reading on this site is based on the Course.  See how it will benefit you on this writing project and the other writing projects in your future.

You CAN create great User Documents.

Here is a page that summarizes what our Course will do for you.  If you wish, you can e-mail it to your supervisor.