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STC Presentation this Thursday: "Quick Reference Guides: Short and Sweet Technical Documentation"

Quick reference guides

by Tom Johnson on Feb 25, 2009 •
categories: technical-writing

This Thursday, my colleague Ben Minson and I are presenting to the Intermountain STC chapter on "Quick Reference Guides: Short and Sweet Technical Documentation."

Here's a description of the presentation:

Users often want documentation in a format that will give them the basics and get them on their way as fast as possible. Not all technical communication situations will benefit from quick reference guides, but almost every user rejoices at the site of one-page documentation.

Despite the brevity of quick reference material, the thought process involved in creating, organizing, and laying out the content is time-consuming. This format requires you to right-size content and decide the most important information the user needs to know. Additionally, you must describe with extreme concision and clarity processes that usually require dozens of pages to explain.

Beyond strategies for quick reference material, we will also review several tools, such as Adobe InDesign, that can be used to create quick reference guides. We will present feedback we have received from users and project managers that highlight the benefits of the quick reference format.

Sound interesting? Delivering quick reference guides will win you more praise than almost anything else you can do as a technical writer. In our presentation, we'll walk through ten sample quick reference guide templates, pointing out elements of design that make them work (or not work).

Here are the meeting details:

Location: Downtown Salt Lake City library, Utah
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
Food served: Light fruit and cheese, and maybe a brownie

For more details, such as driving directions and the library location, see this PDF flyer.

By the way, if you have a quick reference guide template that you'd like to share, send it to me at [email protected]. My colleague and I are also presenting on quick reference guides at the Summit in Atlanta. I'd like to collect as many contrasting quick reference guide layouts as possible.

Additional Resources

I've previously written a couple of posts on quick reference guides:

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.