Genres A to Z: O is for Owner’s Manual

I run a series over on my blog, WordDreams, where I highlight a genre for each letter of the alphabet. Here’s the next in the series:

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but I did this last year, found it way to busy for the likes of me, and decided to post mine ‘about’ once a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh.

My topic, like the last two times I did the conventional approach, will be writing genres.

This genre:

Owner’s Manual

Definition

(also Instruction manual, User’s guide)  – an instructional book or booklet that is supplied with consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances, firearms, toys and computer peripherals  

Tipsa to z

  1. Understand and Know Your Audience.
  2. Know Your Objective.
  3. Be Brief and Detailed.
  4. Include a Table of Contents.
  5. Be Conversational.
  6. Avoid a text-book look.
  7. Make purposeful and effective use of color and lots of white space.
  8. Make effective use of pictures and diagrams.
  9. Use a clean, readable san-serif font.
  10. Include a help-line number.

Popular Books

  1. car manuals
  2. software manuals
  3. computer hardware manuals
  4. sex manuals
  5. company start-up manuals
  6. business practices (any type)
  7. pet manuals
  8. parenting manuals

Click for complete list of these 26 genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about

More O Genres:


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

6 thoughts on “Genres A to Z: O is for Owner’s Manual

  1. I actually write a lot of instruction/owners manuals (for software) and the most difficult part for me is the pictures – things that “make sense” to me often seem like they don’t need a picture and my gloriously written prose should be sufficient. But I also know that’s not really the way to go. The problem becomes figuring out how to effectively design the images to illustrate the wording (and vice-versa).

    The other big issue is updates – when the software gets updated to have new features and therefore a screen has changed, updating all of the images in the manual takes a ton of time. But the moment you add an image you’ve signed on to keep it up, which means you also have to keep similar demo data and environments so that the new images you create for the update still match the rest of the images in the document. Otherwise it will look like different people wrote it or it will just not make sense. It’s definitely not easy.

    • I know what you mean–about pictures. In my tech curricula, years ago, I didn’t have many pictures. Now, I have tons of them. The good part is because they’re all my work, I don’t worry about copyrights. And you’re right about the screen changes. It is an endless process to keep this stuff updated. Do you re-look at the books once a year? Or more? Or less? I used to figure once every two years was enough but I’m not sure that’s true anymore.

  2. I’m not sure I’d include manuals as a writing genre, but they do require a degree of technical and communicative skill. Thanks to Rob for insight into what a demanding job it can be. And remember Lego instructions for builders – all images, no words.

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