AArt Design 571 305-3127

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How To Create MANUAL That Get Action

A well designed training manual, that is kept up to date, can become a valuable source of information to the organization.

An effective manual:

  • Is easy to read and has easy to follow instructions.
  • Has an attractive design.
  • Uses illustrations to enhance understanding.
  • Can be used for future reference.

The following should be taken in consideration when designing the manual:

  • Content: Topics, tasks, procedures and other information arranged in a logical sequence and broken down into small units.
  • Audience: Their reading skills, previous work experience.
  • How the manual is to be used during the training session, afterwards (for revision) and / or as a reference in the work place.

The training manual can have different versions for the trainer / presenter and the trainees. The version for the trainer would include the basic text, prompts for discussions and demonstrations or other activities. It could also include information or checklists on preparation for the session. The trainee's version will have the basic text, examples and exercises, as well as space for making further notes.

Writing the manual

Once the purpose for the manual has been established and attention has been given to the preliminary design, the main task of writing is the next step. First, organize the contents into a logical sequence of topics. Break down the topics into smaller segments that describe a task, procedure or concept. Include an overview on how to use the manual. As preparation for the training session give a list of key points or a summary of what is going to be covered at the start of each chapter.

What are the key elements of a training manual

The training manual may contain the following elements:

  • A cover page with plain or graphic with title clearly written.
  • A blank page after the cover page.
  • Table of contents.
  • An introduction page on what-how-who - "What the manual is about", "How to use the manual" and "For whom the manual is meant".
  • A navigational tips page with visually catchy icons which will be used throughout the manual.
  • Expanding the table of contents - objectives / description of each topic / section summary.
  • Placeholders for graphic.s
  • Placeholders for work sheets.
  • Page for conclusion.
  • Page for further reading.
  • Page for bibliography / references / citations.
  • A Blank page prior to closure.
  • Closing cover page.

The following advice has been given by many authors:

  • Write in plain english: Avoid using technical terms, unless it is part of the work place vocabulary. In that case make sure technical terms are explained in simple language / terms. Spell out or explain acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Use the active voice: It's is concise.
  • Be consistent in the use of terminology, tone and style of writing.
  • Long sentences and paragraphs can be confusing. Use short sentences and phrases. Numbered steps are easier to follow than long paragraphs.
  • Include illustrations (graphs, flow charts, tables, pictures, screen displays, examples of finished tasks) where appropriate to clarify concepts and enhance understanding. It also adds visual interest. Illustrations should be in proper proportion to nearby text.
  • Write a detailed table of contents that include chapter headings as well as the next level of subheadings.
  • Write a detailed index, including cross-references, to make it easy to find information. A good index makes the manual usable as a reference work for future use.
  • Check spelling and grammar.

After the completion of the first draft get feedback from trainers / presenters and other key personnel. Implement any suggestions if appropriate.

The title page, table of contents, a glossary of terms (if used) and the index are prepared last. On the title page the following should appear: Name of the manual, author(s), company name, publishing date. A copyright notice can be included, as well as acknowledgement of contributors if appropriate.


An attractive appearance and ease of use can motivate the trainees to use the manual and thus reinforce learning. Good page layout increase readability and make the information more accessible. The organization of the material on the page guides the eye of the reader – which areas get attention and in what order.

Graphic design principles

  • Proximity: Group related pieces of information and other items together to form a cohesive unit, e.g. illustrations should appear on the same page as the related text. That is part of organizing the content in a logical order. Avoid too many separate elements on the page. Use close proximity to indicate unity between items. Use white space to separate unrelated items.
  • Alignment: The alignment of text and graphics is another technique in organising the page. All the elements (text and graphics) should appear unified and interrelated by their placement on the page.
  • Repetition/Consistency: Consistency in the style of the elements (headings, graphics, arrangement) gives visual clues to the reader. It also unifies the different part of the manual and creates visual interest.
  • Contrast: Creating contrast between sections visually organise the page, leading the eye in a logical flow from one section to the next. Contrast is created by the use of fonts, line thickness, colours, shapes and space. Create a strong contrast to be effective.
  • Fonts (or type): Avoid using more than two or three fonts in a document. Fonts can be in italic, bold, light, heavy, or condensed versions. Avoid all uppercase – it is difficult to read – use bold, italic or other versions of the font for emphasis. Titles, headings and subheadings should be in a larger size font than the body of the text. When combining different fonts, use fonts that are clearly distinct to create contrast. It is often recommended to use a sans serif font for headings and a serif font for the body of the text.
  • Colour: It could be used in text for emphasizing and in graphics where appropriate. When used judiciously it increases learning and retention. Avoid overuse of colour as it loses its interest value.

Ease of use

Another consideration apart from the page layout is the collation of the manual to make the final product easy to use.

The following techniques might be helpful:

  • Section dividers that extend beyond the page width make it easy to find sections, especially if it has the topics printed on the tabs. This is especially appropriate for a bulky manual that is to be used over several sessions.
  • A detailed table of contents at the beginning of sections, in addition to the main table of contents at the front of the manual makes it more accessible.
  • Allow wide enough margins to accommodate the type of binding used, as well as space for users to make key notes.
  • When considering binding, use a method that would allow easy replacement of pages. The manual can be updated easily, which adds to its reference value.

Lastly, be aware of copyright and other legal issues before reproducing the manual.


AArt Design ensures that all training manuals layout, design and printing are produced correctly and to a high quality.

My cost-effective, carefully crafted design solutions meet different budgets for a number of clients across the world.

You can visit my Training Manual Design Gallery

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AArt Design 571 305-3127