Interactive and online media Tips

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Can I use a more informal writing style in a game manual?

Writing Style for Games Manuals

Although generally a manual should be written in a formal, step-by-step way, games manuals are often written in a lighter, more informal manner. All useful information regarding technical issues must be included, of course, but the manual can also include topics such as storylines and character synopsis, and writing styles such as humor, slang, and contractions. However, please note that even with all of this informality, you still want the manual to be easy to follow, quick to use if the user needs a question answered, and fully edited in terms of spelling and grammar.

   
What is the first step to starting to write online help?

Mapping out navigation

Before you start to write your online help, map out your navigation. Think about which sections will link to others. Decide how long you want each page to be and how you want to divide up longer sections. Decide how and where the online help will link to the actual program or Website. Create an index. This is, of course, easier to do if you already have a hardcopy manual to start from. However, even with a hardcopy manual, there will still be text that must be changed and areas that will link together in new ways.

   
Can I just move my manual text directly online?

Manual vs Online Help

Often the text used in both the hardcopy manual and online help are similar, if not exactly the same. However, before creating online help, you must also be aware of the differences. Never try to simply move the manual online - this will only create a very unwieldy and difficult-to-use online help system. Online help has a different way of linking together various parts of the electronic manual. Online help can be reached directly through the Website and/or program. This may necessitate some changes in the text, to fit the appropriate context. Online help is formatted differently, and often broken up into smaller chunks so the user does not have to scroll down for a long way. Online help is also often written in a manner that is not quite as formal as the manual. Think quick tips, simple, multiple links leading to other help areas, and easy navigation.

   
Do I need to know HTML to create online help?

HTML - General Knowledge

There are many programs (e.g., RoboHelp, DreamWeaver, etc.) that can help you automatically turn your text to HTML. However, if you want to be an online help pro, you should at the least have a basic grasp of HTML. The automated programs do no always result in the formatting you desire, and often you need to adjust the programming. There are many free HTML tutorials on the Web. Type in "free HTML lessons" and you will come up with Websites such as http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tut/, http://www.aaahtml.com/, or http://www.davesite.com/webstation/html/. Alternately, there are a wide variety of books available to teach you HTML.

   
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Barbara Gibson