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Technical Writers’ Companion

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Keep it simple and stupid

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Forget what you learned at school.

You’re NOT writing an essay. You DON’T have to impress your teacher.

Provide information that EVERYBODY can understand—even readers who:

don’t speak the document’s language as their first language

aren’t sitting in a silent office but who, for example, are standing in a noisy production hall

don’t have much time

are frustrated because they didn’t succeed without reading the manual

So keep it simple and stupid (KISS principle):

Write short sentences.

Use simple grammar.

Use simple words.

Plain language is NOT evidence of poor education. Plain language is the foundation of clear user assistance.

No:

If you want to exert influence on the contents of a document, access the submenu item Edit in the File menu after having opened the document file successfully.

Yes:

To edit a document:

1. Open the document file.

2. Choose File > Edit.

No:

Congratulations for buying this sophisticated, highly effective phone, which has been designed with your most vital communication needs in mind.

Yes:

You can use this phone to make phone calls.

Top:

Leave out this sentence completely because it doesn’t provide any useful information.

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