The anatomy of a great doc

Some docs just suck, so here's a practical guide to what a great one looks like and how you can create one.

The anatomy of a great doc

Some docs just suck, so here's a practical guide to what a great one looks like and how you can create one.

Last updated
August 10, 2023
Written by
Elisa Reggiardo
Artwork by
Clara Rua

If you're here, you probably want to know how to improve the way documents are being created in your team or company. Let me guess; you work in a startup environment where tons of documents are created by different colleagues. You see docs every day, everywhere;  it's getting a little crazy.

In the midst of the craziness, you always find that person that is really good at crafting useful and beautiful docs you keep going back to, those you get the exact answers to what you were looking for. And so you ask yourself: What kind of sorcery is this? How do they do it? What sets that great document apart from the rest?

That's precisely what we're going to explore in this article. We will go over the ins and outs of what a great document looks like, what are some best practices, and... how can AI lend a hand, cause let's face it - it's here to help.

Understand the interest of your audience

Understanding the interest of your audience is a crucial aspect of creating a great document. After all, the ultimate goal is to create something that people will read, engage with, and find useful. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Choose the right format.
    A detailed report might be suitable for stakeholders and decision-makers, while a visually appealing presentation might be more engaging for a general audience. Consider the preferences and needs of your target readers when deciding on the format of your document.
  2. Tailor the language.
    The language and tone of your document should resonate with your audience. If you're addressing experts or professionals in a specific field, using technical jargon may be appropriate. On the other hand, if you're reaching out to a broader audience, keeping the language simple and easy to understand is essential.
  3. Structure for clarity.
    Ensure that your content flows logically and that important points are highlighted. Use headings, subheadings, and clear sections to guide your readers through the document. If your audience can quickly find the information they need, they are more likely to stay engaged and value your document.

Brevity

Think about this; you're working on a specific task. Let's say a customer asks you something, and you need to find a document or a resource to move forward. Next thing, you find it, but it looks like an epic novel, with long, dense paragraphs... a real snooze-fest, and not very practical. You probably will spend more time trying to find the information you're looking for within that document than in the overall task execution.

That's a sign that tells you the document is probably not going to be a useful one, even if it holds useful information. And so the domino effect starts: you take longer to find the information you need, which means you take longer to circle back to the customer, so you start losing your joy in looking up for answers... and in no time - your teams' entire knowledge base is just a dusty library no one visits rather than a community garden everyone enjoys spending time at.

So you heard it, yes, less is more. By breaking down your content into digestible chunks, using subheadings, bullet points, and lists, you can create a flow that's easy on the eyes and minds of the reader.

A picture is worth a thousand words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it holds true in the realm of documents. To elevate your content, you should tap into the power of multimedia, as Candice Dugaret, Knowledge Manager at Shine shares in our guide 'Unlocking the Power of Collective Wisdom'. Images, sketches, charts, infographics, videos, and even emojis, break the monotony of the text and convey complex ideas more effectively. For example, a visually appealing chart can transform raw data into meaningful insights that resonate with your readers.

  • Videos: videos provide a fresh dynamic way to consume information. It allows you to provide a lot more in less space. Let's say you have a step-by-step process on how to operate the software. A Loom video recording of your process can be useful for people to see how you use the platform and follow your steps. You can also then attach below the video a bullet list with the main steps so if your reader whants to go back to a specific step, they don't need to watch the whole video again.
  • Sketches: collaborative drawings, image annotations, diagrams, and even doodles can help you visualize in one go a complex thought process. For example, your company organigram, mapping out a customer journey, grafting an offsite agenda, or even wireframing a website page so you can better convey what you have in mind to your design team.
  • Charts & Infographics: a bar can mean a thousand metrics. Whether it's a pie chart, a line graph, or any infographic, an easy way to represent metrics and data is by visually showcasing the impact of the same.
  • Emojis: last but not least, emojis came into our lives to express what we can't put into words, and they are here for good. So why not use them in your docs too?

AI is your trusty sidekick

Enter the world of AI, where technological wonders can make our lives easier without overshadowing human intelligence. We don't think you need AI to help you create even more content, but it can definitely assist to improve your docs as you write. For us, AI capabilities are like having a trusty sidekick to assist us in the document creation process.  Here's how we're leveraging AI at Slite to add a touch of magic to our work:

  • Making Docs Shorter: Condense lengthy paragraphs no one cares to read with a click. By cutting the extra words, you'll more likely convey a clear message.
  • Spelling & Grammar Check: Avoid embarrassing blunders with AI-powered editing tools. They'll spot and correct errors, giving our documents a polished and professional finish.
  • Language Simplification: AI offers suggestions to simplify complex language, making our content more accessible and reader-friendly.
  • Translation Capabilities: Break language barriers with AI translation, expanding our document's reach to a global audience.
  • Doc Summaries: Leverage commands to automagically create your docs TL;DR. In a single click, AI generates concise summaries, ensuring readers grasp the main points swiftly.
Curious? Meet our AI Assistant in the Editor

If you're not ready to make a step to sign up on Slite but still eager to try out how AI can help to improve your docs - give it a go for our Magic Document Formatter. This AI assistant helps you to make your docs reader-friendly just in a single click. It takes your poor and boring document and formats it with sections, headings, subheadings, lists so it's easy to digest.

In conclusion, a great document is like a well-crafted masterpiece that captivates its audience, communicates with clarity, and stands the test of time. By understanding the diversity of document types, embracing brevity, harnessing the power of multimedia, and enlisting AI's assistance, we can create documents that leave a lasting impression. So, go ahead and embark on your document creation journey with confidence. You've got the tools, and now it's time to unleash what you've learned and make every document shine!

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Written by

Elisa Reggiardo is part of the Marketing team at Slite where she leads the Partner Marketing motions. She is also a mom, author, and a big fan of delicious wine.

Artwork by

Clara Rua is on the Design team at Slite. She juggles with all the Slite's brand codes to make our values and beliefs come to life in illustrations, projects, and visuals, amonst other things. You can find her cycling, surfing, pottery making, jump-roping, yoga-ing from the south of France to the Moroccan west coast.

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