Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry / Edition 3

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Overview

“Clear content and consistent style are essential for the usability of any system. If you're  doing something complex, describing it simply becomes that much more important. Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry tells you how to achieve these elusive goals, and does so following its own advice: it's clear, consistent, and presents advanced topics in an actionable and approachable manner.”

Jakob Nielsen
Principal, Nielsen Norman Group
Author, Eyetracking Web Usability

“The third edition of Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry has all the excellent content of the first editions and more. The new chapters provide insights to new forms of communication. They include sound advice on writing alternative text for illustrations, writing narrations for screencasts, and working with wikis to enhance and manage content contributed by the user community. The material on writing procedures is invaluable for those who are struggling with task-oriented information. If you need to understand the best practices for developing useful and usable text, start with this volume.

It brings together a wealth of knowledge that all technical communication professionals must have to succeed.”

Dr. JoAnn T. Hackos, President, Comtech Services, Inc.

The definitive reference for technical writers, editors, and documentation managers, Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, Third Edition, has been revised and updated to cover everything from creating screencasts and referencing web sites to writing for wikis.

This award-winning guide to creating clear, consistent andeasy-to-understand documentation covers everything from grammar and writing style to typographic and legal guidelines. The authors, who are senior editors and writers at Sun Microsystems, share their extensive experience and provide practical tips and recommendations, including guidance on hiring writers, working with illustrators, managing schedules and workflow, and more.

The third edition features new chapters on:

•    Writing for wikis and encouraging wiki collaboration
•    Creating screencasts, using screencast terminology, and guidelines for writing narration
•    Creating alternative text for nontext elements such as screen captures, multimedia content, illustrations, and diagrams

It also includes new tables for symbol name conventions, for common anthropomorphisms, and for common idioms and colloquialisms. An updated and expanded recommended reading list suggests additional resources.


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The third edition of Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry has all the excellent content of the previous editions and more. If you need to understand the best practices for developing useful and usable text, start with this volume. It brings together a wealth of knowledge that all technical communication professionals must have to succeed.”
-—Dr. JoAnn T. Hackos, President, Comtech Services, Inc.

“Clear content and consistent style are essential for the usability of any system. Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry tells you how to achieve these elusive goals, and does so following its own advice: It’s clear, consistent, and presents advanced topics in an actionable and approachable manner.”
-—Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group; Author, Eyetracking Web Usability

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780137058266
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 12/31/2009
  • Edition description: Third Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 462
  • Sales rank: 840,894
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

The Members of Sun Technical Publications are award-winning senior editors and writers for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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Read an Excerpt

PrefaceHow This Book Is Organized

Read Me First! is organized as described in the following paragraphs.

Chapter 1, "Mechanics of Writing," reviews basic punctuation rules and guidelines, plus other general writing rules and conventions. This chapter also notes exceptions to these rules, guidelines, and conventions.

Chapter 2, "Constructing Text," provides guidelines for tables, cross-references, headings, lists, and other text elements.

Chapter 3, "Writing Style," provides guidelines for writing in a style that facilitates effective communication.

Chapter 4, "Online Writing Style," provides guidelines for writing documentation that is intended primarily for online presentation. Some of these guidelines also apply to online help and web pages.

Chapter 5, "Constructing Links," provides guidelines for using links effectively in online documents.

Chapter 6, "Writing Tasks, Procedures, and Steps," provides guidelines for writing tasks, procedures, and steps in a procedure.

Chapter 7, "Writing for an International Audience," provides guidelines for writing material that is easily understood by readers whose first language is not English and that can be easily translated into other languages.

Chapter 8, "Legal Guidelines," provides guidelines for the proper use of copyrights, trademarks, and proprietary information.

Chapter 9, "Types of Technical Documents," describes the various parts that make up a manual and lists the order in which they appear. This chapter also describes typical types of computer documentation.

Chapter 10, "Working With an Editor," explains how writers and editors work together to produce high-quality documents.

Chapter 11,"Working With Illustrations," describes illustration formats, styles, and types. This chapter also provides guidelines for writing callouts, arranging callouts, using leader lines, and writing captions.

Chapter 12, "Writing About Graphical User Interfaces," explains how to document graphical user interfaces (GUIs). This chapter also provides specific guidelines for writing about web pages and referencing URLs.

Chapter 13, "Glossary Guidelines," explains how to create a glossary for a technical manual.

Chapter 14, "Indexing," explains how to prepare an index for a technical manual. This chapter covers issues such as selecting topics to index, style rules for creating an index, and editing the index.

Appendix A, "Developing a Publications Department," provides information about issues related to a documentation department, including topics such as scheduling, roles and responsibilities, technical review, and printing and production.

Appendix B, "Checklists and Forms," contains sample checklists and forms that you can use at various stages of documentation development, including art tracking, print authorization, and a technical review cover letter.

Appendix C, "Correct Usage of Terms," provides alternatives for terms that you should not use in technical documentation, and terms that you should avoid. This appendix also provides some guidance related to commonly confused words and terms.

Appendix D, "Recommended Reading," presents a list of books, divided by subject headings, that you might want to consult for additional information.Changes for This Revision

Since the last revision of Read Me First!, the globalization of technical products has increased, and online delivery has become a fast-growing means of delivery for technical documentation. Read Me First! has been extensively revised in response to these changes. The highlights of this revision are as follows:


  • A more logical organization of chapters
  • Addition of a chapter on online writing style
  • Addition of a chapter on constructing links
  • Addition of a chapter on writing tasks, procedures, and steps
  • Extensive revisions to the chapters that discuss the following topics:
    - Writing for an international audience
    - Legal guidelines
    - Working with illustrations
    - Writing about graphical user interfaces
  • Incorporation of guidelines for easing the translation of documents
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Table of Contents

Preface 19
1 Mechanics of Writing 1
2 Constructing Text 31
3 Writing Style 63
4 Online Writing Style 81
5 Constructing Links 101
6 Writing Tasks, Procedures, and Steps 115
7 Writing for an International Audience 135
8 Legal Guidelines 151
9 Types of Technical Documents 169
10 Working With an Editor 187
11 Working With Illustrations 199
12 Writing About Graphical User Interfaces 221
13 Glossary Guidelines 231
14 Indexing 241
A Developing a Publications Department 273
B: Checklists and Forms 303
C Correct Usage of Terms 311
D: Recommended Reading 319
Index 335
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Preface

Preface

How This Book Is Organized

Read Me First! is organized as described in the following paragraphs.

Chapter 1, "Mechanics of Writing," reviews basic punctuation rules and guidelines, plus other general writing rules and conventions. This chapter also notes exceptions to these rules, guidelines, and conventions.

Chapter 2, "Constructing Text," provides guidelines for tables, cross-references, headings, lists, and other text elements.

Chapter 3, "Writing Style," provides guidelines for writing in a style that facilitates effective communication.

Chapter 4, "Online Writing Style," provides guidelines for writing documentation that is intended primarily for online presentation. Some of these guidelines also apply to online help and web pages.

Chapter 5, "Constructing Links," provides guidelines for using links effectively in online documents.

Chapter 6, "Writing Tasks, Procedures, and Steps," provides guidelines for writing tasks, procedures, and steps in a procedure.

Chapter 7, "Writing for an International Audience," provides guidelines for writing material that is easily understood by readers whose first language is not English and that can be easily translated into other languages.

Chapter 8, "Legal Guidelines," provides guidelines for the proper use of copyrights, trademarks, and proprietary information.

Chapter 9, "Types of Technical Documents," describes the various parts that make up a manual and lists the order in which they appear. This chapter also describes typical types of computer documentation.

Chapter 10, "Working With an Editor," explains how writers and editors work together to produce high-qualitydocuments.

Chapter 11, "Working With Illustrations," describes illustration formats, styles, and types. This chapter also provides guidelines for writing callouts, arranging callouts, using leader lines, and writing captions.

Chapter 12, "Writing About Graphical User Interfaces," explains how to document graphical user interfaces (GUIs). This chapter also provides specific guidelines forwriting about web pages and referencing URLs.

Chapter 13, "Glossary Guidelines," explains how to create a glossary for a technical manual.

Chapter 14, "Indexing," explains how to prepare an index for a technical manual. This chapter covers issues such as selecting topics to index, style rules for creating an index, and editing the index.

Appendix A, "Developing a Publications Department," provides information aboutissues related to a documentation department, including topics such as scheduling, roles and responsibilities, technical review, and printing and production.

Appendix B, "Checklists and Forms," contains sample checklists and forms that you can use at various stages of documentation development, including art tracking, print authorization, and a technical review cover letter.

Appendix C, "Correct Usage of Terms," provides alternatives for terms that you should not use in technical documentation, and terms that you should avoid. This appendix also provides some guidance related to commonly confused words and terms.

Appendix D, "Recommended Reading," presents a list of books, divided by subject headings, that you might want to consult for additional information.

Changes for This Revision

Since the last revision of Read Me First!, the globalization of technical products has increased, and online delivery has become a fast-growing means of delivery for technical documentation. Read Me First! has been extensively revised in response to these changes. The highlights of this revision are as follows:

  • A more logical organization of chapters
  • Addition of a chapter on online writing style
  • Addition of a chapter on constructing links
  • Addition of a chapter on writing tasks, procedures, and steps
  • Extensive revisions to the chapters that discuss the following topics:
  • - Writing for an international audience
    - Legal guidelines
    - Working with illustrations
    - Writing about graphical user interfaces
  • Incorporation of guidelines for easing the translation of documents
Read More Show Less

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