Simple Technical Writing Guidelines

Recently, we've been working quite a bit in the realm of technical writing (documentation, and copywriting for technical audiences) and thought it would be useful to discuss what constitutes good, readable technical writing.

In our survey of the literature, we've found the following are some good tips for making documents accessible, understandable, and memorable: 

  • Write short documents in short paragraphs in short, right-branching sentences
  • Bold and italicize liberally, when ideas warrant additional attention (and to disrupt visual uniformity)
  • Use bullets and numbering for lists of items, including steps, sequential definitions, and the like
  • If possible, shorten columns to less than three inches wide
  • Consider the best format to showcase your information: tables, charts, and infographics

We'd be thrilled to develop a one-page guidelines document, a brief readability crash course, for technical writers around the world, but we want to hear from you first!

What are some protips you have encountered, or resources for improving the readability of documentation and technically-focused copy? 

Also posted on innovation forums in preparation for X.commerce's Innovate 2011 conference.