Unit 3: Overview
In Unit 3, you will add text instructions to accompany the photos in your guides.
You are finished with this section when your guides:
Are easy to understand and follow for an audience with an average to below-average technical background
Are clear and concise—free of verbose and muddled directions
Avoid vague language
Describe the procedure with adequate detail
Correctly identify the device components and tools being used
Are free of major errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling
Include the head types (e.g. Phillips #0) and screw lengths (in mm) of every screw
Follow the standard format for titles ([Device Component] Replacement) for the guides
Have a brief summary on each guide
Include a descriptive introduction outlining why the procedure is necessary, background on the procedure, and other relevant information
Include all parts of the Details section, such as the difficulty, time required, and tools
Make proper use of color-coordinated bullets and special bullets (Note, Reminder, and Caution bullets)
Email Us When...
...you complete your guides. We'll be happy to offer feedback and help you get your guides ready for prime-time!
In this unit, you'll add step-by-step written instructions accompanying your photos to create simple and straightforward guides that anyone can follow.
Each completed guide should contain the following:
A title and brief (1-2 sentence) summary
A descriptive introduction
Estimated difficulty and time required
A list of any required tools
Step-by-step instructions written in clear, complete sentences
An accompanying photo or photos to demonstrate each step
Visual markup, when appropriate, highlighting key areas of the photos, matched to color-coded bullets in the text (See guidelines here.)
Keep in mind that your final guides will have a global audience, so you shouldn’t rely on the text alone to communicate key information. Ideally, your readers should be able to complete the guide using only the photos, or only the text. Both the written and visual portions of your guides should work together, yet be able to stand on their own.
The following examples from past projects give a good idea of what your completed guides should look like.
To see more awesome student work, check out our Featured Student Guides page.
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,” “an,” 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.
Guides on iFixit are written in a step-by-step, bullet-point format.
Each bullet should represent one idea or action.
By default, each step starts off with a single black bullet.
You can use up to eight bullets per step if needed.
Some additional controls are found at the bottom of the window:
Indent the text to the right (or left)
Add a new bullet below
Delete the current bullet
Click on the bullet to select additional bullet colors or types.
Use a colored bullet to match the color of any corresponding markup on the image.
Use colors in order. Just like with markup, when using colored bullets, always start with red, then progress to orange, yellow, etc. as needed.
Use special bullets as follows:
Caution: Warns users of something potentially hazardous to themselves or the device.
Note: Provides information other than instructions which may be helpful in completing the repair.
Reminder: Provides reassembly tips (anything that differs from simply reversing the existing steps.)
Use special bullet types sparingly. Constant use can overwhelm your readers, making the special bullets ineffective.
Don’t write the words “Caution,” “Note,” etc. when using special bullets. The special bullets already alert the reader to pay extra attention.
Clicking on the Details tab at the top of your guide’s Edit page gives you access to some important fields. These fields are critical to help prepare and empower people to fix their device. Before you finalize your new guide, be sure to complete the following:
- Estimate the time required. Keep track of how long each of your repairs takes (not how long it takes to write the guide), and provide an estimate for your readers. This should be the total time from the start of the repair to the moment it's finished. Remember that you’re writing for a non-technical audience, so it’s best to be a bit conservative with your estimate.
- Estimate the difficulty level. Click on the drop-down menu for an explanation of each difficulty level, and select the most appropriate one. For example, “Easy” requires minimal disassembly and common tools, whereas “Difficult” requires specialty tools or skills such as soldering.
- List any prerequisite guides. (Review this page for an explanation of prerequisites.) To add a prerequisite, simply start typing the name of the component from one of your existing guides—as long as it’s a guide for the same device, it should appear in the drop-down menu.
- Adding a prerequisite adds ALL of the steps from that guide; you can’t add just one part of a guide. If you delete a step, you will delete it from the original guide, not just the new one.
- Note that if the guide you’re importing as a prerequisite has any prerequisites of its own, you’ll need to import them separately—they won’t carry over automatically.
- You can also import any guides created for your device as prerequisites, even if the guides weren't originally created by your group.
- List any required tools. 99% of the tools you are using are already in our database, so as soon as you start typing they should appear in the drop-down menu. If you’re unsure what a tool is called, check the Tools and Materials page. If you need a new tool added, just drop us an email! Remember to include tools used in prerequisite guides as well; you can easily add them by clicking "Import tools from prerequisite guides.”
- Don’t list any required parts. You’re not responsible for sourcing replacement parts for your project.
- Check the conclusion. By default, the conclusion reads, "To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order," so reassembly steps are not necessary. But if this is not the case (which is rare, but it happens), then reassembly instructions can be added to the applicable step using the "reminder" bullet.
GOT loose screws?
Make sure you’ve got the nuts and bolts of your guide in place before you move on to Unit 4. There are lots of little pieces to keep track of, so take the time to review the Unit 3 instructions and checklist carefully before emailing us your guide at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com for feedback.