Recently, when I was at the gym, I overheard a snippet of conversation. One guy was telling another to “read the friendly manual.” Since I first heard RTFM defined as “read the fine manual,” I’ve heard lots of other f-words in the phrase, and few of them have been complimentary.
But a friendly manual strikes me as a worthy goal, a phrase I would love to hear about what I’ve been working on–and I suspect that other tech writers and editors would love to hear, too.
Currently, I’m working at a start-up on a service manual for hardware. I’m driving my SMEs crazy with questions such as “Why does the field service guy need to know this?” or “How will the field service guy remove and replace this part in order to change that faulty part?” Mostly though, I’m trying to avoid an attitude of “and then a miracle happens” to bridge a lack of knowledge.
Working toward a friendly manual is really a great exercise, especially because I get to learn so much, not only about the product, but about the tools and techniques needed to get there. I hope that you get the chance to write a friendly manual, too!
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon at a meeting.
Marie McElravy, Editor