Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings

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Course Overview

Analyze the uses and audiences for a product manual, coordinate text with illustrations and other graphics, and develop and integrate current ANSI safety information.

Who Should Attend?

  • Technical writers
  • Illustrators
  • Graphic Artists
  • Engineers
  • Marketing
  • Legal

Course Outline

Day 1

Who Needs a Manual?

  • Does every product need a manual?
  • What does your customer need?
  • What does your company need?

Who Reads a Manual?

  • Who is your audience?
  • How customers really use manuals
  • Getting the manual to the end user

What’s In and What’s Out: Choosing Content

  • Need-to-know vs. nice-to-know
  • How it works or how to use it?
  • Is once enough?
  • User questions can guide content

Designing for the User: Basic Principles

  • Cookbooks, not novels
  • Mix and match: Modular organization
  • A two-page spread is all you see

Writing that Works: Strategies

  • Language level and word choice
  • Chunking and sequencing information
  • User-friendly writing
  • Help for the human search engine: Referencing information

Make it Easy to Read (Or They Won’t Bother)

  • How to make the manual look inviting
  • Help your users find their way
  • Avoid roadblocks and detours


Day 2

A Picture is Worth…It Depends

  • When to use graphics
  • What kind of graphics to use
  • How to integrate graphics and text

Thinking Outside the Books

  • Alternative media for user information
  • Special-purpose manuals
  • Manuals for custom machinery
  • Manuals for component parts

Manuals in the Global Marketplace

  • Cultural differences
  • The user spectrum expands again
  • Translation challenges
  • International standard: IEC 82079-1:2012

Product Safety

  • The role of manuals in product safety and liability prevention
  • Meeting standards: ANSI Z535.6
  • How to deliver a consistent safety message
  • Does the manual do its job? Usability testing

Documentation Management

  • Concurrent development
  • Integrated product safety
  • Archives and updates
  • How to juggle schedules and budgets


Patricia Robinson

Dr. Robinson brings more than 35 years of experience to consulting and training in product safety, particularly in the area of warnings and instructions. She is the author of Writing and Designing Manuals and Warnings (4th edition), as well as other books and articles. Dr. Robinson has helped more than one hundred national and international companies improve their warnings and instructions, addressing safety issues in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products ranging from infant car seats to high- wall coal-mining machines.

Dr. Robinson brings a unique blend of skills and experience to her consulting. She began her work in instructions and warnings while serving on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering. In addition to developing curriculum and teaching technical communication courses, Dr. Robinson helped develop and served as the first Director of the Technical Communication Certificate program and served as Program Director for continuing education courses in technical communication, including product documentation. She continues to teach regularly at product safety conferences and seminars.

Jeff Oelke

Jeff Oelke oversees the Maintenance and Reliability Certificate offered through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Engineering Professional Development. Mr. Oelke has over 20 years of experience working with manufacturing companies. In addition to a thorough understanding of Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints and Quick Response Manufacturing strategies, Mr. Oelke has firsthand experience with assembly, metal forming, welding, plastics, printed circuit layout and fabrication, paint and wood products manufacturing processes. Prior to joining Engineering Professional Development, Mr. Oelke was the managing member of the Continuum Management Group, LLC, Richland Center, WI, and the division manager for supplier development at Deere and Company’s Commercial and Consumer Equipment Division. Mr. Oelke possesses MS and BS degrees with concentrations in manufacturing operations and computer hardware architecture.  He has been certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Upcoming dates (0)

Take this course when it’s offered next!

Program Director

Jeff Oelke