Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer - Describing How It Works
Go to the Writer Home Page of Douglas Krantz -- Describing How It Works
Go to the Fire Alarm Operation Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the General Electrical Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the Fire Alarm Description Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the Fire Alarm Installing Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the Fire Alarm Maintaining Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the Fire Alarm Testing Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer
Go to the Fire Suppression Map Page of Douglas Krantz - Technical Writer


A Manual is a Set of How-To Instructions
Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

What is an Instruction Manual?

By Douglas Krantz

Explaining the method used to accomplish a project, an instruction manual is a one-way communication.


The instructions can explain how to mount a picture frame; the instructions can explain how to operate the food blender; the instructions can explain how to fix a broken motorcycle; the instructions can even explain how to manually run a space station.

Always though, an instruction manual is the communication provided by someone who knows how a project should be done to someone who needs to know how to do it.


Few people ever read a manual cover-to-cover. To many people, referring to the manual is thought-of as the last resort. On the other hand, especially when the project is very complicated or dangerous. The instructions referred to in the manual are the first thing sought by the user.

Depending on what information is needed, though, each user will read different sections of a manual. The reader will use the manual:
  • For how-to assemble instructions
  • For general information
  • As a theory of operation
  • For operating procedures
  • For a system summary
  • As a technical repair reference
  • As a specification reference
  • As a safety precaution
  • As a parts source
  • As a checklist
  • As a list of requirements
  • As a list of permissions
  • For training instructions
  • To answer frequently asked questions
  • For information about capabilities
  • For reporting and documentation forms
  • For legal notices
  • Etc.
Because what the user is going to read is never known, most instruction manuals include many of these sections.

Varied Audience

Each person using an instruction manual has different background knowledge so a manual has to be written to a varied audience:
  • Those that don't know
  • Those that don't know they don't know
  • Those who need some help understanding
  • Those who are just interested
  • Those who just need the confidence
  • Etc.

Multiple Explanations

A manual should contain more than one explanation because each person reading the manual gains understanding through different channels of learning:
  • To understand, one person may need diagrams
  • To understand, one person may need pictures
  • To understand, one person may need step-by-step instructions
  • To understand, one person may need an essay explaining the steps

Was this
Yes   No

To some people, how to accomplish a project is intuitive; other people need some explanation. Background knowledge may be all that's needed; then again, background knowledge may not be sufficient. Some people just need an exploded view; some people need to be told in words.

If the project is complicated, the more methods of showing how to get the job done, the greater number of people will understand.

The Manual Bottom Line

Being given from someone that knows to someone that doesn't know, a manual is a set of instructions explaining how to accomplish something.

Popular Articles

What is a Stair Pressurization Fan (SPF)? -- In case of fire in a high rise building, an SPF uses clean outside air to pressurize the air in stairwells. The pressurized air helps people escape... Read More

How Does Class A Fire Alarm Wiring Work?-- Fire alarm systems save lives and protect property. Fire alarm systems also break down because... Read More

What's the Difference Between Class A and Class B? -- The Fire Alarm System is a Life Safety System - so the occupants of a building can escape quickly, the idea behind a Fire Alarm System is that it will provide a warning that there is a fire. The trouble is, if something is wrong with the system, like a wire is broken somewhere in the building, the Fire Alarm System... Read More

What is a Flyback Diode? -- Someone Thinks the Flyback Diode is Important. Manufacturers all over the world spend good money installing these diodes, they must think they're ... Read More

What is a Waterflow Switch? -- The fire alarm waterflow switch, a delayed action mechanical/electrical assembly, is a conventionally wired fire alarm device. The fire department reacts... Read More

What Should I Do When the Fire Alarm Sounds? -- When the alarm sounds, as caretaker for an apartment building, what should you be doing? "I would never suggest turning off the fire alarms, or in any way... Read More

What is a Fire Alarm System? -- Long ago, as earliest method of spreading the word of fire danger, people shouted "Fire!" Depending on the circumstances, people would run... Read More

What Does E=IR Really Mean? -- If it isn't just a word, and it isn't really something to be memorized in order to pass a test, what do the letters in Ohm's Law really mean?... Read More