My Approach to writing

Approach to Writing/Editing Projects

By: Mike Gemmell

The following paragraphs are a generic guide, or checklist, for writing and editing projects. Certain sections apply only to specific types of writing projects, (e.g., product user manuals).



Establish the mission of the project

  • Establish purpose/goal of the project (remember there may be different perspectives to consider, e.g., sales, engineering, buyer / user, etc.)

  • Contact key subject matter experts to explain information needs/issues


Gather information for projects

  • Review previous editions or similar documents, if available (e.g., system designs, flowcharts, specifications, user specifications, etc.)

  • Interview subject matter experts

  • Use product -- if writing project is for product documentation


Establish type of document(s) needed to fulfill mission of the project


Perform user-task analysis (for user manual documents only)

  • Identify user types and typical tasks: planning, decision making, etc.

  • Develop user interview questionnaire

  • Interview users to discover:

  •      Tasks to be performed

  •      Informational needs to perform tasks

  •      Range of users' experience with product

  • Construct matrix showing tasks or goal and description of topic needed to address

  • Perform user tasks to understand what user manual should be providing user

  • Write summary document presenting conclusion fro user-task analysis


Develop schedule for writing project

  • Develop summary document describing deliverables

  • Estimate time/cost for key items including:

  •      personnel and resources needed to complete project

  •      detailed outline development

  •      writing drafts

  •      development of document design

  •      editorial review

  •      graphics support

  •      proofing and copyediting



  • Outline via the table of contents

  • Use informative introductory material

  • Write procedures for selected tasks (primarily for user manuals)

  • Write reference material (as needed)


Revising and Editing


Early Reviews

  • Review purpose / goal of document - has it been achieved?

  • Review of document structure and organization

  • Review overall readability, consistency, and accuracy

  • Develop reviewer guidelines for subject matter experts

  • State what looking for from each tpe of reviewer

  • Distill comments (look for recurring issues)


Final Review

  • Simplify text and phrases (use active voice, watch fog index, etc.)

  • Check document against style guide

  • Check spelling and grammar

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