Technical writing is a little different from what you've done in other English classes, so we created this "cheat sheet" of sorts to help prevent you from committing any word crimes. (For writing more advanced guides, such as “How To Use Your Samurai Sword For Zombie Defense,” check out the Tech Writing Handbook.)
- Gear your writing towards an audience with little technical knowledge. iFixit is a website by everyone, for everyone—not just the gadget whizzes of the world. When writing your guides, ask yourself if your aunt and uncle who still use dial-up could follow your instructions.
- Use the active voice. You're telling someone what to do in your guides, so tell them something to do. Simply stating that a component can be removed is passive and weak.
- Be clear and descriptive, yet concise. Writing instructions that people actually want to read requires finding a middle ground between vagueness and verbosity. Read your own text out loud to yourself. You'll quickly have a feel for whether or not you've found the happy medium.
- Tell your audience what to do and how to do it. It's important to be thorough when describing your repair procedure. Instead of simply saying "Remove the battery," describe how to remove it. "Use a plastic opening tool to pry the battery up and out of the case."
- Write complete sentences. Don’t let those bullet points deceive you—proper grammar is critical to a clear and comprehensible guide. Remember to include all punctuation, including commas and periods.
- Use articles like “a,” “and,” and “the.” Articles tell your brain that a noun is coming.
- Identify tools and components correctly. This might sound obvious, but once you open your device up, you may run into things you've never seen before. Help your readers by correctly identifying which components each particular cable and connector correspond to.
- List all screw lengths (to the nearest tenth of a mm) and head types. For example, you might instruct your readers to remove four 5.5 mm Phillips #00 screws. This gives your readers a safety net in the event that they accidentally drop or otherwise mix up their screws.
- Keep it simple. Avoid writing obvious steps like “Remember to keep track of your screws,” or “Locate component X.” Your readers will quickly tire of reading tedious or repetitive instructions, but they’ll thank you for text that is accurate, to-the-point, and concise.