User manuals, online help and user interface text (and translations to alternative languages) are best written by writes trained in technical writing.
Technical writing differs significantly from literary writing by adhering to the following writing principles:
- Use short sentences
People are in a hurry when resorting to reading manuals and instructions on-screen. Therefore, sentences must be short so they can be grasped in a glance.
- Use familiar words
Call things what you know your users know and use themselves. This may not always be the strictly correct terms, but attempting to educate users in manuals is counter-productive.
- Avoid synonyms
Always use the same terms even if you feel it gets repetitive – it’s supposed to. Varying your language with synonyms slows down reading and instills doubt in your reader.
- Skip introductions
Avoid unnecessary build-ups and introductions to subsequent content. It delays conveying the real message and you risk loosing your reader before they even get to the actual instructions.
Technical writing is easy and quick to read, avoids taking up too much space, and is easy to translate to other languages.