Manual design 101

Subject: Manual design 101
From: Anne Chenette <anne -at- XOX -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 1997 12:17:40 -0600

Help! I need some simple tips for designing a manual set.

I'm the only/first technical writer for a small software company
that provides C language library routines for application developers.
I just started this job a few weeks ago.

For the past 12 years, I was not involved in design decisions for
technical manuals. I was in a large (40 person) publications
department, and I avoided the endless and bloody discussions about
manual style. Mine was not to wonder why, mine was just to do or
die (not that I didn't have opinions, mind you.)

Now, I find myself short of time (what a surprise!) and needing an
immediate new look for the heretofore programmer-written manuals.
(We also produce installation notes and a few other small documents.)
They're highly technical documents for programmers, but they could
really use some sprucing up. My manager merely says to make them
look "professional".

What I'm looking for is a book or list of Design 101 tips, like a
one-day class on the subject, so I don't have to spend too much
time researching the details. (I will refine and improve the design
gradually, over the next year.) Basically, I want a summary of the
things we all develop a feel for over time, like the "best" point size,
good fonts for legibility, rules of thumb for white space, headers
(run-in VS separate columns, etc, etc, etc. I would especially
like to know the latest trends and research, all in an easy-to-skim,
list-oriented, exhaustively indexed format. Something like a
"Dummy's Guide to Manual Design".

Am I dreaming?

Anne Chenette Senior Technical Writer XOX Corporation
anne -at- xox -dot- com 1450 Energy Park Drive St. Paul, MN 55108

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Standard Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this message are mine
and mine alone. XOX Corporation had nothing to do with them.

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