Home > General > If Manual is Boring, User Should?

If Manual is Boring, User Should?

Some of us, as technical writers, find ourselves writing manuals.  We all know nobody leaps out of their chair and says “oh boy!” when s/he sees a manual, so our work is to make it as easy-and-efficient as possible.  Doing that typically means forgetting everything your high school English teachers taught you.  Using big words you don’t understand really doesn’t get the job done–not in an essay, and definitely not in a manual.  I think we can help our audience a great deal by making our manuals simple.  Let’s look at a sample sentence:

If manual is boring, user should disregard all information.

A lot of people think passive voice, or noun style, is accepted as the professional tone.  That’s a mistake.  Phrasing things in active voice can save your audience a lot of confusion.  Let’s reword our sample sentence:

Disregard all information if the manual’s boring.

We never addressed an ambiguous person named User, we didn’t start with an adverbial clause, and we didn’t use passive voice.  The result was a crisp, clear sentence.

Till next time,

John R Larsen

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