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"Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style."

- Matthew Arnold

Instructional writing succeeds when it is simple, clear, direct and concise. When it is not, the results can be disastrous.

The Challenger disaster was caused by faulty O-rings. The manufacturer warned NASA about the O-rings in a memo, but their message was lost in confusing jargon and poor writing.

During the Three Mile Island accident, plant operators took steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown that inadvertently compounded the crisis. Their training did not prepare them for the situation they encountered, and they could not understand their manuals.

While technology does not always affect public safety, it is critically important to the people who use it. The design professionals who use our products do not have time to pore through lengthy manuals. They want succinct instructions that tell them how to get their job done.

This is a style guide for writing instructor-led training documents. The first part, Principles, defines good writing, especially technical content. The second section, Practice , gives specific rules that apply to writing exercises.

To learn how to create effective instructional content, see "Modular Content Design Standards for Instructor-Led Training" available in Word, html and as an Autodesk Learning Assistance volume.



Useful Tools

  • Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. The classic guide to writing clearly.
  • Technical Writing Style by Dan Jones. An in-depth study of styles that are used in technical writing.
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser. A general manual that explains the principles of good writing with wit and humor.
  • Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams. A more advanced writing guide that is as clear and graceful as its title.
  • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale. A guide to grammar that is actually fun.
  • The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publication. The gold standard for naming conventions and writing style.
  • Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules by Steve McConnell. Full of good suggestions for more efficient development practices.
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