RE: Structured Writing Question

Subject: RE: Structured Writing Question
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 08:38:26 -0500

Tony asked...

> >What formal analysis
> > techniques to you use to orgainze your documetation's
> > outline (or equivalent)?

Two-thirds of the documents I produce are procedural in nature--how to
accomplish a certain task; how to install this piece of hardware; how to
complete this upgrade on this software; you get the idea.

After I do my initial research (meetings with SMEs, collecting source
documentation, etc. etc.) I generally begin by creating a process flow
of the process. What do you have to do first, what second, where can
there be errors and what to do to correct them; where there are
decisions and branches and such.

Once this process flow is complete, it leads pretty naturally to an
outline, and I try to make my outline become the headings of my
document. That way, my Outline pretty much becomes my Table of Contents
(which includes all my subheads). Along the way I try to determine where
to supplement with screenshots, illustrations, photos, and other visual
elements to include.

Currently, all my deliverables are in two forms--hard copy and PDF, and
I make extensive use of PDF bookmarks for my ToC, my illustrations, my
index, and my glossary. I have a wide range of users who access my
documents--some of them are new in a department and are asked to do
fairly complex tasks with little or no formal training; others have been
at it for years and just need to know about the new wrinkle in this or
that procedure that "the man" has decided implement. So I've got to make
my documents easily accessible for someone who's never done the job, but
quickly searchable for someone who only needs to know one or two key
elements in a long procedure.

For non-procedure based documents, such as engineering spec sheets, I
try to find out what information my users are going to need to access
the most often, and organize my outline and my document that way--most
commonly used stuff is up front and the more rarely used stuff is toward
the back.

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