How to Write Better Beginner Tutorials

Everyday people are searching the Internet to learn how to do something and there are plenty of tutorials to answer their questions. However they may not always find the actual answer they are looking for due to certain issues they have with the tutorial itself. Maybe it’s not clear to them or too complicated.

I have personally read and written many beginner guides, articles and tutorials over the years on a variety of subjects, and I have discovered ways to improve my own teachings, which I wish to share with you.

FOCUS ONLY ON WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY

Imagine you are having a conversation with someone. Do they drone on and on about nothing or do they get to the point. If they say a lot of unnecessary things and often repeat themselves then you may find yourself only half listening or even switching off. When people read your tutorial they are looking for an answer to their question, they are not willing to read through a load of what they find to be meaningless drivel.

Therefore when you edit your tutorial, focus only on what you need to say and cut out anything that doesn’t actually contribute anything to it.

AVOID INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Who actually reads the small print or the terms and conditions which seem to read like an oversized novel, written by someone who likes to show off because they know a lot of long words? People automatically switch off when they are presented with too much information at once. I personally struggle to remember too many instructions at once. Give me directions somewhere and my memory starts rejecting after the first four.
It is better to present your information in smaller paragraphs and to focus on one thing at a time. If you have a lot to say then you may want to consider splitting your tutorial into sections IE: Part 1, Part 2 etc…

Therefore put yourself in the mind of the beginner. If you wanted to learn something how would you like the information to be presented to you? Use headings in bold to explain what the following paragraph or section is about and avoid using any unfamiliar terms the beginner might not understand at the moment.

NEVER PATRONIZE YOUR READERS

This may seem obvious but it is something you should always be aware of. A few years ago I sent in a programming question to someone in a magazine and the first part of the answer he printed was this: “Even though the example in the manual is clear enough, I will give you another example.” I found this to be insulting. Maybe it was clear to him but not to me as I wouldn’t have written to him in the first place.

Some people hold the view that if someone doesn’t understand them then that person is thick and deserves to be patronized. Some people find themselves getting angry if someone doesn’t understand what is being explained to them. It is important to remember that people have different learning speeds and capabilities. If you find you are someone who has a bad attitude towards people then it can reflect in your writing.

Therefore you should focus on helping that person to understand rather than lash out because you think they said something obvious or stupid. Some people do come across as dumb but they don’t necessary do it on purpose. If they don’t understand something then reassure them that you are not a threat to them, you are trying to help them.

CONCLUSION

Understanding people’s needs and being patience with them can help you become a better tutor. Listen to their comments and learn from them to improve your writing.

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