Put all of your technical writing skills to use, by cleaning up your selected guide. Click the “edit” button in the upper right-hand corner of the guide to edit it. Remember to be clear and concise, and don’t use any jargon. We want anyone to be able to repair their stuff—so write inclusively so that anyone from your kid brother to your grandmother could follow your guide.
For help on writing, or to brush up on your technical writing skills, check out our Technical Writing Handbook. Don’t worry, this book won’t burn a hole in your wallet—it’s a free PDF download, although you’ll have to fend for yourself with the robots and zombies found inside.
Below, we break down each flag and provide a few examples of the types of improvements you should make.
Many guides have solid instructions, but just need a grammatical boost. Watch for the following:
- Missing Articles - Articles are those little words in front of nouns, like the, an, and a. Articles tell your brain that a noun is coming. (We not robot, after all.)
- Bad: Disconnect cord from wall.
- Good: Disconnect the cord from the wall.
- Incomplete Sentences (Sentence Fragments) - Make sure every sentence expresses a complete. (See what we did there?)
- Bad: And now four tabs along the upper edge.
- Good: Disconnect the four tabs along the upper edge.
- Missing or Incorrect Punctuation - Oh, boy. Need we explain how crucial those commas and periods can be?
- Bad: Remove the display using rubbing alcohol clean any remaining adhesive from the back side.
- Good: Remove the display. Using rubbing alcohol, clean any remaining adhesive from the back side.
- Incorrect Spelling or Capitalization - When writing instructions, it’s important to get the details right.
- Bad: Use a philips #00 screwdriver to remove the 3.5 mm drive tray screw.
- Good: Use a Phillips #00 screwdriver to remove the 3.5 mm drive tray screw.
Hastily written guides run astray in all kinds of ways. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Passive Voice - Writing instructions means giving commands. If in doubt, start off with a verb.
- Bad: The three lower tabs can be pried apart to separate the rear case.
- Good: Pry apart the three lower tabs to separate the rear case.
- Overly Wordy Text - Keep it concise.
- Bad: In the event that you completely remove the display away from the chassis without first carefully disconnecting the display cable, you may accidentally damage the display cable.
- Good: Before removing the display, be sure to disconnect the display cable, or you may damage it.
- Unclear Directions - For clarity, use words for quantities and numbers for measurements.
- Bad: Remove the 3 12 mm Phillips #0 screws.
- Good: Remove the three 12 mm Phillips #0 screws.
- Insufficient Directions - Without being overly wordy, give enough detail to perform the procedure correctly.
- Bad: Pull the cable out.
- Good: Remove the cable by holding down its release tab, and pulling it straight out.
Some authors are so eager to write instructions, they forget to establish context. For a proper introduction, think about what you’d tell a friend who was about to start this repair. For example:
- When or why might this repair be needed?
- What problem(s) would this repair likely resolve?
- Are any special skills required? (Soldering, etc.)
- Is there anything else unusual about this repair?
Use colored bullets that match your markup, so readers know right where to look.
Use markup colors in ROYGBIV order. For each new step, start over with red.
Use markup sparingly. It's only appropriate when the photo alone can't communicate the necessary information.
A few things that might be useful
- Right under the list of parts and tools on a guide (directly above the photo in the first step) is a PDF button. This will allow you to print guides in a neat fashion for "before" and "after" comparisons or for any on-paper editing you might like to do before digitizing.
- We're here to help. You can always email us at any time! Don't be shy about asking for help.
Let us know when you've finished!
Once you’ve finished your project, remove the flag(s) that you addressed and send us an email letting us know that you're done, along with a short summary of the changes you made. We’ll look it over to make sure everything is in order. Don’t remove the "Student in Progress" flag—we’ll take care of all that for you. Additionally, if you’d like feedback on your work, just ask!
Well this is awkward!
Nothing slows up an editing party like the ghost of guides past showing up. Make sure you’ve followed all the guidelines closely, so we don’t need to revert and undo your edits. Take a few moments to review the instructions before you email us at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com letting us know you’re done editing—that way, everything can be awesome!