Researchers say that Scotland post-surgical deaths drop by a third. A study indicated a 37% decrease since 2008 thanks to the implementation of a safety checklist. The World Health Organization created the 19-item list. As a result, the death rate fell to 0.46 per 100 procedures between 2000 and 2014.
Checklists really make our lives easier and project results better — you don’t have to keep in mind all the steps. However, the key benefit of a checklist, especially for a technical writer, is that it helps to avoid errors and oversights. It’s a great idea to implement checklists in your technical writing.
Here, I want to give you some tips on creating an effective checklist.
Elements of an effective checklist
Creating an effective checklist is harder than you can imagine — it’s not just a list of elements that come to your mind randomly; you should think over your checklist properly. What should you include in your list? It depends on several factors, including what type of documentation you write, the size of your doc team, the number of documents you’re going to release, the formats you publish documentation in and the like. For example, if you create online documentation, you should check all the links inside the document in order to handle broken ones, if any.
Speaking of the size, your checklist should be short so you can absorb the information at a glance. The best size is one page.
Now, let’s think about the content of your list. It should not include obvious things like, for example, publish topics (if you create online documentation). Technical writing checklist should include steps on examining of the content, some examples you’ll find below. The items should be clear and concise, for example, fix broken links. They should not be complicated — just several words, so you can take a look at the item and understand what you should do.
Below, you will find some ideas on what you should include in your checklist.
Powerful checklist items
- Use of present tense and active voice
- Important information first
- Clear sentence structure
- No passive voice
- Spelling and grammar check are complete
- Correct use of punctuation
- Your text is not wordy
- All hyperlinks have been tested and work
- Images are not broken
- Fonts are used correctly (according to your company style guide)
- The text is easily readable (if you use a color for a font or background)
- The table of contents reflects correct page numbers and section names
- Headings are clear and have correct heading tags
- Glossary identifies all key terms (if you have a glossary in documentation)
Check if your documentation looks fine in general. It should not have any windows/orphans, lost heads. In order to avoid typos, use a spellchecker from this list:‘Top Free Grammar Checkers’.
I usually create checklists directly in my documentation. Here is how it looks in ClickHelp, a tool that I use for my work. I just click the TODO button and write whatever it is that I need to do.
Each topic can have its own ToDo list, which virtually eliminates the chances of mix-ups and allows for a more organized workflow.
Also, I like this approach because it’s ecofriendly — you will save trees and not leave trash after using paper.
Do you use checklists for technical writing? What items do you include?
How did I become a technical writer? What skills do you need? Read FAQ on Technical Writing.
Job position: Freelance Technical Writer. I use ClickHelp for technical writing.
Technical writing is for everyone!