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Notes From Learning Technical Writing Two


01 Aug 2020 . 4 mins : learning . Comments
#opensource #OpenSource #courses #programming #programming practices #technical-writing #notes #google

After completing Technical Writing One course from Google, I’ve finally finished the Technical Writing Two. This write up contains my notes and is aimed at anyone looking to review the learned concepts in a quick go.

Self-editing

  • Think like your audience; read your draft from their point of view.
  • Define a persona for the audience.
  • Specify if audience needs to brush up on specific topics.
  • Do not overdo relying on persona, it can make the document narrowly focused.
  • Read your draft loud; take note of awkward phrasing, too-long sentences, or anything else that feels unnatural.
  • Come back to the draft later for a fresh perspective.
  • A change of context (or media) when reviewing your own work can help you find things to improve.
  • Get peer-reviewed.

Organizing large documents

  • How-to guides, introductory overviews, and conceptual guides often work better as shorter documents.
  • In-depth tutorials, best practice guides, and command-line reference pages can work well as lengthier documents.
  • Start with a structured, high-level outline of the document. Below are key guidelines for outline:
    • explain why user needs to know something before explaining it to them
    • limit each step of outline to describing a concept or performing a specific task
    • introduce information when it’s relevant to the reader
    • follow concepts with demonstrations
    • sharing outline with team is helpful on collaborative projects
  • Always introduce the document to the readers including:
    • what the document covers
    • expected prior knowledge
    • what the document doesn’t cover
  • Review and revise the introduction once the document is complete.
  • Add table of contents with navigation which should include:
    • introduction and summary sections
    • a clear, logical development of the subject
    • headings and sub-headings
    • show where user is in the document
    • link to related resources
    • link to what to learn next
  • Use task-based headings with familiar terms to the user.
  • Provide description under each heading before introducing a sub-heading.
  • Disclose information progressively in the following manner:
    • introduce new terminology and concepts near to usage
    • breakup large walls of text
    • breakup large series of steps
    • start with simple examples, then move to complications

Illustrating

  • Majority of readers enjoy illustrations.
  • Write the caption before illustration and they should:
    • be brief
    • explain the takeaway
    • focus the reader’s attention
  • Don’t put more than a single paragraph worth of information in a diagram, avoid visual run-ons.
  • Organize complex systems into subsystems to present better illustrations.
  • Add visual cues and callouts to focus reader’s attention on a key element of an illustration.
  • Always review and revise illustrations just like text.

Creating Sample Code

  • Good sample code is often the best documentation.
  • Good samples are correct and concise code that your readers can quickly understand and easily reuse with minimal side effects.
  • The following are properties of good sample code:
    • build without errors
    • perform the expected task
    • concise and maintained
    • avoid security flaws
    • follow language specific conventions
  • Snippet heavy documentation often degrades over time.
  • Specify how to run the sample code and the expected result.
  • Key points to create good sample code:
    • use descriptive class, method and variable names
    • avoid complex programming tricks
    • avoid deep nesting
    • highlight specific important sections of the code
  • Augment sample code with comments on the following guidelines:
    • keep them short, clear
    • avoid commeting about obvious code
    • only comment non-intuitive statements
    • explain why, not what for experienced readers
  • Put lengthy or descriptive comments in a separate paragraph, not in sample code.
  • Consider potential side-effects of the code and mention the same.
  • Sometimes showing both example and anti-example is necessary to avoid confusion.
  • Sequence the code samples in a basic to complex manner, starting with “Hello World”.

Summary

The entire course (pre-class material) has given me a new perspective to writing technical document. Having said that, I do find that the learning is equally useful in non-technical writings as well.

The best part about doing the course for me has been the acquisition of a fresh look at writing with keeping in mind the audience at forefront.


Me

Your typical geek; Shivam can be found toiling hard through books (away from library) to find what she means by her actions :wink: Hard at work, and harder at drunk dancing, he loves to skim through articles to increase his productivity so he can waste more time. Nonetheless, when he does get some time, and is in the mood, he writes few lines of code and more lines of rhymes :facepunch: