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Developing Quality Technical Information A Handbook for Writers and Editors

ISBN-10: 0131477498
ISBN-13: 9780131477490
Edition: 2nd 2004 (Revised)
List price: $59.99
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Description: The book presents a much needed approach to quality technical communication and a working plan for achieving quality. The examples are excellent and are easy to use and adapt. The editorial advice is simple and clear enough for tech writers who did  More...

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Book details

List price: $59.99
Edition: 2nd
Copyright year: 2004
Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR
Publication date: 4/6/2004
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Size: 7.75" wide x 9.50" long x 1.50" tall
Weight: 2.288
Language: English

The book presents a much needed approach to quality technical communication and a working plan for achieving quality. The examples are excellent and are easy to use and adapt. The editorial advice is simple and clear enough for tech writers who did not major in English or journalism. It is most worthy of a text in university programs, but it is more valuable to experienced writers, editors and managers concerned with raising the quality of their publications. The main difference between this and other books is that in each of the first nine chapters, one quality characteristic is presented that you can apply to your writing project to make technical information easy to use, easy to understand and easy to find. There are checklists at the end of each chapter for review and a Quality checklist in the appendix covering all of the characteristics. The book shows original text and revision text so that you can actually browse the book and see the differences applied. This is another excellent feature that should catch a purchaser's eye.

Contents
Welcome
Is this book for you?
How to use this book
Conventions used in this book
Changes in this edition
Acknowledgments
Quality technical information
What is quality technical information?
Relationships among the quality characteristics
Order of the groups
Quality characteristics compared with elements and guidelines
Other possible quality characteristics of technical information
Using the quality characteristics to develop quality technical information
Preparing to write: understanding users, tasks, and the product
Writing and rewriting
Reviewing, testing, and evaluating technical information
Writing task, concept, and reference topics
Establishing a unit of reuse
Restructuring technical information
Easy to use
Task orientation
Write for the intended audience
Present information from the user's point of view
Indicate a practical reason for information
Relate details to a task where appropriate
Provide only a necessary amount of conceptual information in task topics
Focus on real tasks, not product functions
Use headings that reveal the tasks
Divide tasks into discrete subtasks
Provide clear, step-by-step instructions
Make each step a clear action for users to take
Group steps for usability
Clearly identify optional steps
Identify criteria at the beginning of conditional steps
In sum
Accuracy
Write information only when you understand it, and then verify it
Keep up with technical changes
Maintain consistency of all information about a subject
Reuse information when possible
Avoid introducing inconsistencies and eliminate those that you find
Use tools that automate checking for accuracy
Check the accuracy of references to related information
In sum
Completeness
Cover all topics that support users' tasks, and only those topics
Cover each topic in just as much detail as users need
Include enough information
Include only necessary information
Use patterns of information to ensure proper coverage
Repeat information only when users will benefit from it
In sum
Easy to understand
Clarity
Focus on the meaning
Avoid ambiguity
Use words with a clear meaning
Avoid vague referents
Place modifiers appropriately
Avoid long strings of nouns
Write positively
Make the syntax of sentences clear
Keep elements short
Remove roundabout expressions and needless repetition
Choose direct words
Keep lists short
Write cohesively
Present similar information in a similar way
Use lists appropriately
Segment information into tables
Use technical terms only if they are necessary and appropriate
Decide whether to use a term
Use terms consistently
Define each term that is new to the intended audience
In sum
Concreteness
Choose examples that are appropriate for the audience and subject
Consider the level and needs of users
Use examples appropriately in conceptual, task, and reference information
Use focused, realistic, accurate, up-to-date examples
Make examples easy to find
Use visual cues to indicate where examples are
Make examples part of the user interface
Make clear where examples start and stop
Make code examples easy to adapt
Use scenarios to illustrate tasks and to provide overviews
Set the context for examples and scenarios
Relate unfamiliar information to familiar information
Use general language appropriately
In sum
Style
Use correct grammar
Check for sentence fragments
Correct pronoun problems
Correct dangling modifiers
Use correct and consistent spelling
Use consistent and appropriate punctuation
Write with the appropriate tone
Use an active style
Use active voice
Use the present tense
Use the appropriate mood
Follow template designs and use boilerplate text
Create and reuse templates
Use boilerplate text to ensure inclusion of necessary information
Create and follow style guidelines
Provide practical and consistent highlighting
Present list items consistently
Use unbiased language
In sum
Easy to find
Organization
Organize information into discrete topics by type
Organize tasks by order of use
Organize topics for quick retrieval
Separate contextual information from other types of information
Organize information consistently
Provide an appropriate number of subentries for each branch
Emphasize main points; subordinate secondary points
Reveal how the pieces fit together
In sum
Retrievability
Facilitate navigation and search
Provide a complete and consistent index
Use an appropriate level of detail in the table of contents
Provide helpful entry points
Link appropriately
Design helpful links
Ensure that a link describes the information that it links to
In similar links and cross-references, emphasize the text that is different
Minimize the effort that is needed to reach related information
Avoid redundant links
Make linked-to information easy to find in the target topic
In sum
Visual effectiveness
Use graphics that are meaningful and appropriate
Illustrate significant concepts
Avoid illustrating what is already visible
Choose graphics that complement the text
Use visual elements for emphasis
Emphasize the appropriate information
Ensure that your visual elements are not distracting
Use visual elements logically and consistently
Use a visually simple but distinct heading hierarchy
Maintain consistent placement of document elements
Ensure that the look and feel of multimedia presentations is consistent
Use icons and symbols consistently
Balance the number and placement of visual elements
Use visual cues to help users find what they need
Visually identify recurring alternatives or contexts
Ensure that visual cues are usable in all environments
Ensure that textual elements are legible
Use a legible typeface and size
Ensure that the text fits in the available space
Ensure that the contrast between text and background is adequate
Use color and shading discreetly and appropriately
Ensure that all users can access the information
In sum
Putting it all together
Applying more than one quality characteristic
Applying quality characteristics to task information
Applying quality characteristics to conceptual information
Applying quality characteristics to reference information
Applying quality characteristics to information for an international audience
Applying quality characteristics to information on the Web
Revising technical information
Reviewing, testing, and evaluating technical information
Inspecting technical information
Reading and using the information
Finding problems
Reporting problems
Testing information for usability
Prototyping
Testing outside a usability laboratory
Testing in a usability laboratory
Testing technical information
Using test tools
Using test cases
Testing the user interface
Editing and evaluating technical information
Preparing to edit
Getting an overview
Reading and editing the information
Looking for specific information
Summarizing your findings
Conferring with the writer
Reviewing the visual elements
Preparing to review
Getting an overview
Reviewing individual visual elements
Summarizing your findings
Conferring with the editor or writer or both
Appendixes
Quality checklist
Who checks which quality characteristics?
Quality characteristics and elements
Looking at the quality characteristics
Looking at the elements
Resources and references
Easy to use
Easy to understand
Easy to find
Putting it all together
Glossary
Index

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