Tidbits for Fellow Scholars

8 Steps in Writing Technical Manuals

As technologies continue to develop, there is an increasing need for quality technical manuals.  Whether the product is a piece of software, hardware, mechanical device, or a technical reference on a particular subject, there is a need for your book writing skills.  Here are some guidelines and advice that can position you to be successful with your technical manual writing project.  A technical manual that is well written, properly formatted, and edited can be a selling point for the product.  For example, if your product is comparable to another, yet people comment on the poor quality of your technical manual, a consumer may choose the other product because the instructions are better.

Learn, in detail, about the item or subject matter with a hands-on approach.  Your experience using the piece of equipment, software, or involvement with the subject matter is valuable in technical manual book writing.  Use the item and identify problem areas so that you can provide a clear, yet concise, series of instructions.

Discover the skill level and technical proficiencies of your end user.  Understand your target audience.  If you are writing to the public who has no experience with the item, you will need to provide details that are easy and fun to follow.  If you are writing for advanced users, remember to refer them to other sources of information for the basic use of the item or subject.

Develop an outline for using the item from start to finish for a task, lesson, or purpose.  Your outline is a brief sketch of how you would use this item or explain the subject matter from start to finish.  For example, a technical manual on a calculator would start with explaining how to power the unit on before you would begin providing details associated with using memory or power function buttons.

Write the document with easy to read vocabulary.  Choose your vocabulary so that end users can easily read the technical manual and understand what is written.  Most often, when people need to use the manual, they seek a clear example of how to get past a particular issue with the product.

Have test users utilize the manual and give you feedback.  Find test users, people who will use the product, and let them evaluate the technical manual.  Ask these people to make notes or comments about where your manual was not clear.

Edit for content and format.  Book editing for proper grammar, clarity of presentation, flow of ideas and content, and ease of reading will help the end user find value with your technical manual.  The format, especially inclusion of a table of contents and page numbering, is critical for making this document user friendly.

Perform a secondary review with another focus or test group to determine if you have solved the problems found by the first group of test users.  After your edits are complete and the areas that were unclear have been improved, find a few new test users and give them the opportunity to use this technical manual.  Make certain you have addressed the problems discovered by the first user group.

Final Editing. Finally, edit and re-write sections that the second test group found to be problematic and then move forward with your final plan for book editing and formatting prior to publication.

Congratulations, you have successfully written and formatted your first technical manual.

The 5 Keys for Self-publishing Success

Writing a novel, short story, or technical manual is on many of our “Bucket Lists.”  With the advent of Self-publishing through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, or many other avenues it has become easier to self-publish.  Regardless of whether or not you plan to sell millions or just a few copies to achieve fulfillment and happiness, you need to follow these five important steps to be successful in book writing and publishing.

1) Use a content editing service

Find a friend, fan, or professional editor who will read your book for content.  This person should be familiar with the genre of your book and be able to help you by suggesting areas that need improvement.  Some areas that a content editor might be able to identify as needing work include character development, storyline flow, and historical (if appropriate) accuracy.  It is also important that your content editor make sure your story is unique.

2) Develop an eye-catching cover

The first thing a potential reader sees for your book is the cover.  As people scroll through eBooks or on bookshelves, the cover is what catches the eye.  If your cover telegraphs the content and excitement of your story then people will pick up a copy and start looking in more detail to determine if this is a story worth their time or money. Choose a designer wisely and budget for a good one. Elance is a good way to find freelancer designers, as is Behance.

3) Have a Table of Contents

With a Table of Contents, it is easy for people to see what your book offers.  Interesting chapter titles or descriptions of the technical chapters helps the reader immediately assess the value of your book.  In our fast-paced society, a book without a Table of Contents might be set aside because it would take to long to determine the value of the book.

4) Employ an excellent book editing service

If you have spent any time reading book reviews you will notice that many reviewers comment on spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar.  It is critical to the success of your work that you have the book edited.  A good book editor will find punctuation issues, spelling and grammatical errors, formatting problems, and he or she can help you keep readers happy and providing you with four and five star reviews.  Poorly edited books often receive one star reviews and this can absolutely stop any sales of your book.

5) Write a catchy book description

After the cover grabs the potential readers attention, your book description needs to convince them that your book is going to be a wonderful read.  You must tease the reader, activate his/her imagination, and capture his/her attention.  Often a beta reader or a book editor can help you write the book description.

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11 Steps in Writing a Publishable Scientific Research Paper


A rewarding yet difficult aspect of graduate work is writing that first scientific research paper to be published in a peer reviewed journal. The reward comes from knowing that you have the opportunity to tell a story (at least in part) relevant to your thesis or dissertation hypothesis. How to actually develop the paper and put your story into words, tables, and figures can be the difficult part.

It is important to remember that the peer reviewed scientific research paper may not be in the same format as your thesis or dissertation chapter. Your goal should be to get the scientific research paper published and then you can concern yourself with the necessary thesis editing and formatting to prepare this work for inclusion into your graduate thesis.

My first scientific paper draft consumed many hours with little or no success. I would write a few sentences, then edit, wordsmith, and check grammar so that every word was perfect. I lacked any idea of how to go about presenting my scientific data. Sure, I was experienced with writing essays and graduate research papers for class, but this was different. Now with over 30 peer reviewed papers published, I have a system that makes this process easier. Within three days of gathering the final pieces of data, I can have a draft document into the hands of my colleagues and this is how I succeed.

Know the preferred presentation style of your colleagues.

Take the time to read a few papers written by your major advisor and collaborators. Understand what styles and journals they most often choose and how they go about laying out the data and the story. If your work developed from a grant proposal, review that document and think about the hypothesis. In the beginning, your advisor and collaborators are going to use what is most familiar to them and you will have to prove yourself competent in writing peer reviewed scientific papers before you can develop your own style. Have the relevant literature easily accessible as you write.

Collect and present your data.

Often we want to start with the introduction. That is the wrong approach. Start with compiling your data and putting it all into tables, charts, and figures. Have your data in nicely formatted and easy to review “pictures.”

Write the Results section.

Once your data is presented nicely, write the results associated with each figure, table, or chart. Do not just reiterate what is presented, but help the reader understand the relevance and connectedness of the data. This is where you succeed in walking the reader through your data, just as you would tell a story.

Write the Materials and Methods.

Once you have the data presented in the Results, it is time to write the Materials and Methods. Describe how you performed the experiments. Refer to previous literature and be succinct. In your thesis or dissertation writing, you can add extra details.

Draft five or ten key points about your work.

Put into words the key ideas you are hoping to present with this paper. These do not need to be lengthy paragraphs but rather statements that summarize the crucial elements of your work.

Share the paper with your collaborators.

Now is the time to have collaborators, your advisor, or knowledgeable friends review this work to see if everyone agrees on the selected data and the key points. Ask for quick feedback and select the scientific journal you will submit your work to for publication.

Revise based on collaborator suggestions.

With collaborator suggestions, you can then perform some research paper editing. Edit the document to address the issues or ideas brought up by your collaborators. With your target journal in mind, this is the time to go back and make sure your tables, figures, and charts are in the proper format as specified by the journal.

Write your Discussion.

After you have edited the Results and Materials and Methods sections based on collaborator input, write your Discussion. You can use the five or 10 points you developed earlier as the basis for the discussion.

Write your Introduction.

With the rest of the document prepared, write your Introduction.

Put together your References Section.

Finally, format your references per the guidelines of the target journal.

To Be Certain of its Excellence, Hire an Editing Service for a Final Check.

Once all the above is completed, you must now make sure all the collaborators and your advisor read and comment. Edit and make necessary changes as suggested by the rest of the team and then write the abstract. If you’re not 100% confident in your paper’s excellence, employ a professional editing service staffed by PhDs in your discipline to go through it one more time for you. Edit911 has edited over 1200 scientific papers for publication.

6 Tips for Using an Academic Editing Style Guide

In performing any academic editing, such as dissertation editing or thesis editing, you will usually need to use two style guides.  The first is provided by your university and may or may not be combined with the policies and procedures for dissertations and degree conferral.  The second is a professional style manual.

One Style Does Not Fit All

Some schools use one professional style manual for all departments; others allow each department to choose its own manual.  The most common of these are the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and the MLA Handbook (MLA).  Some departments use A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian).  Other manuals are used less commonly in the writing of dissertations and theses.

Go Right to the Source and Ask the Horse

You can determine which style manual you are required to use by checking the university style and formatting guide or asking your advisor.  Ideally, the professors for your courses leading up to the dissertation process will expect you to use the required professional manual for their assignments.  In that way, you will begin to build the skills needed in the dissertation or thesis process.

Learn & Apply Its Rules

Professional style manuals include information related to the technical aspects of writing your dissertation, including the requirements of formal language, and to the publication of articles and books.  Some manuals are narrow in focus; others try to anticipate as many situations as possible that writers may confront.  Most typically include information related to the following:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation (including use of italics)
  • Capitalization
  • Preferred spelling (including hyphenation)
  • Use of numbers
  • Use of abbreviations
  • Use of scientific terminology
  • Formats for tables, charts, and other graphics
  • Reference list or bibliography entry requirements by type of source
  • Internal citation formats
  • Footnote and end note formats
  • Levels and formats for headings and subheadings
  • Elimination of bias in writing (including gender bias and preferred terminology for racial and ethnic groups)

Pay Attention to the Edition

When you locate the specific professional style manual for your department, be sure to note which edition the university requires.  These manuals undergo continual revision, with new editions being published as often as every three years.  Typically, universities will update their requirements to include the most recent manual editions.  However, students who begin the dissertation process under one manual edition are not usually required to change as long as they complete their dissertations in a timely manner.

Be Wary of the Guides’ Limitations and Contradictions!

You should also be aware of the limitations of these professional guides.  For example, APA and MLA are geared specifically to the sciences and language and literature, respectively.  CMS is much broader in scope and is generally used in the social sciences.  When APA and MLA do not contain specific information, editors often rely on CMS to determine correct form and required information.  They then adjust the formatting to meet APA or MLA requirements.

You may also find that information in the professional guides contradicts information in your university dissertation style and format guide.  Remember, the university guide always trumps the professional guide.

Consider Using an Editing Service

If you’re stumped or just want to be sure, you may want to hire an editing service to check everything for you. Be sure to tell your academic editor not only the specific style manual required but also the specific edition.  Editors often have multiple editions of these manuals to use as resources.  Knowing which one you must follow is imperative to ensuring an accurate edit of your paper.

 

 

11 Point Plan to Achieve Clarity in Academic Writing

Nothing is a bigger enemy of good writing than fuzzy thinking. Nothing can quite replace putting appropriate time and thought into your writing to make your points and word choice clear and concise! Take the following steps.

Picture your audience. Name a member of your audience. Give him an age, name, and face if necessary. Think of him as you write. Think about how your writing will interest him and help him achieve what you want him to accomplish after reading your work.

Review your assignment. If you see your audience and know what you want the end consumer to get out of it, then the next step is to examine the requirements to get across your message. Have all requirements squared away from the beginning: word count, purpose, goal, technique, etc. Leave nothing to chance.

Set up your document. Create your word processing file. Set up your document preferences: proper margins, font, font size, tabs, and other settings so that you don’t have to go back and redo anything.

Write a thesis statement or hypothesis. Keep that statement in focus for your entire research. If a statement does not help you get across your thesis, or help evaluate your hypothesis, then delete it.

Outline your argument and the steps you will take. Have a plan for your writing and provide this sketch before you fill in the details. This will help you, especially if you are a writer who typically starts writing first and shaping later.

Ask at least 3 people to read your writing. The more eyes you have on your writing, the more problems you are likely to catch on the front end. Be willing to take the critique of others. Allow people to correct everything from the details (like grammar and punctuation) to the big picture ideas and assumptions you make (to keep from incorrect assumptions and faulty logic).

Write your first draft. Write it freely. You can self-edit as you go if you wish. Sometimes it’s great just to get the ideas out. After you have your first draft, let it sit for at least a day. Leaving this time after your first draft will help you gain some perspective and help your read it fresh.

Read it again. Look at it from a big picture point of view, seeing if it makes sense or if anything needs more attention.

Do a final edit. Read it, editing all the details. Trim to the word count and cut out unnecessary words and phrases.

Run spell and grammar check. This can help your writing more than you know. Spell check finds those nasty misspelled words. Grammar check can find any pesky subject-verb agreement issues or help you find that easy-to-miss passive voice that may sound correct to your ear.

Ask one other person you trust to read it again. You can never get too much feedback. Sometimes your professor will offer to do this for you if you can finish your writing early.

Turn it in and reward yourself!