Technical Writing Tip: Why You Should Use Templates for Creating Documentation

January 3, 2024 Breanne MacDonald

If you’re a user of our ASCENT guides, you may have noticed an updated look for our Autodesk 2024 guides -new artwork for the covers and a refreshed design for the interior of the guides. Switching publications over to a new design is no easy feat – and one thing that helps tremendously is using templates. 

Whichever publishing program you use, be it Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, FrameMaker, etc., having a template for converting old documents or creating new ones is essential for making the process smoother. 

Here are a few reasons you should use a template for your documentation: 

1. It saves time. 

Having a template, especially one with defined styles embedded in it, can save time when converting old documents to the new design. Keep the style names the same and they should convert nicely when the old template is applied (though this may depend on your particular program or setup). If you aren’t using styles in your old documents, this process may be a bit more time-consuming, but it’s well worth the extra effort to apply template styles when converting in case you ever need to make a change in the future. New documents should follow the template and styles from the get-go, and applying a style to a paragraph is faster than changing the formatting manually for each one. 

2. It makes things consistent. 

If you have multiple people who work on documents for your organization, having a template keeps things consistent. If everyone is following the same template, your documentation should maintain the same look and standards across the board, regardless of who worked on each document. Even if you’re a one-person team, using a template means you don’t have to refer to that document from last week (or last month or last year) to remember what it looked like or what the styles are. 

3. It can help you keep track of your style decisions.  

A template can be a place to record decisions on layout, styling, casing, etc. If you don’t have a style guide (though you should!), you can update your template instead so that you capture those decisions as they are made without having to look back through previous documents or rehash the discussions. Even if you do have a style guide, a template can help distinguish between grammatical or content style decisions versus those made for design and layout (while also providing a visual for how things should appear).  

4. It can provide a guideline for creating new content. 

A template that lays out the basic structure of your documents can help when you are preparing new documents. It gives you a guideline to follow and an idea of how your content should be structured so that it is consistent with the rest of your documentation (though there’s always room for exceptions for different types of content – but be sure to record those exceptions in your template as well!). Having books or manuals that are structured the same way also makes it easier for your existing users/customers to find the information they want when they get a new guide or product manual because they already have an idea of where to look. 

Are you considering changing the look or reorganizing the structure of your documentation? Think about developing a template to help make the process easier and more efficient. Not sure where to start? ASCENT can help - whether you need a style guide developed or a template created, our team is here to assist:  

About the Author

Breanne MacDonald

Technical Editor<br><br>Fueled by her meticulous nature, an eye for detail, and a love of books, Breanne has been an editor for over 10 years. She has been a technical editor with ASCENT since 2019, and outside the office she is an avid volunteer with the Editors’ Association of Canada. Breanne holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a certificate in publishing from Ryerson University.

Follow on Linkedin More Content by Breanne MacDonald
Previous Article
Shadow Study Animation in 3ds Max
Shadow Study Animation in 3ds Max

Shadow study is a valuable aspect of project planning particularly where projects are sunlight dependent. L...

Next Article
Weld Symbols – Which Method Is Best for You?
Weld Symbols – Which Method Is Best for You?

Learn about a third method to create weld symbols in your designs using Autodesk Inventor 2024.


Sign up for email updates

First Name
Last Name
Thank you!
Error - something went wrong!