By: Lauren Beth Kelly
The following is an analysis of the visual aspects of a user manual and of how these can influence the audience perception of a document. An understanding of the rhetorical situation and visual effectiveness of a document can help you become a better writer and is especially important in the field of technical writing.
Who is the Audience?
The audience consists of adult individuals within the Fairfax County area of Virginia seeking to further their education in the fields of apprenticeship. Such fields include areas such as carpentry, plumbing, and electricity.
The document applies to both non-apprentices looking to build their skill set and to state-registered apprentices who are already somewhat familiar with the subject area.
What is the Purpose?
The purpose of this user manual is to provide prospective students with detailed information about classes offered through the Fairfax County Public School’s Adult and Community Education Apprenticeship Program.
The document attempts to persuade readers to enroll in these courses. For example, information displayed in the form of a small, colorful graphic on the front page of the document advertises registration in new program classes which begin on January 11, 2016.
Detailed instructions are given for course registration and enrollment. These instructions are provided under each course listing and on the “registration and enrollment” page.
What is the Context?
The context consists mostly of course listings that contain a specific course description, tuition cost, location, instructor name, and time data. A few additional pages include resources such as policy guidelines and Virginia Licensing information.
This manual is available at various learning centers located within Fairfax County. Such centers are the type of environment in which the audience will be reading the document.
Font types and sizes
The largest font sizes within the document are included on the title page. However, most of the document’s text is given in a standard font. For example, all class listing information is presented in a basic type of font. Bold fonts are used as headings throughout to indicate each specific trade and course listing. A few italicized fonts are also included in the document.
A proper combination of text and graphics are included. No large graphic images are displayed within the main body of the manual which contains course listing information only.
Course information is displayed in a column format and is categorized according to trades that are listed alphabetically. The document is very straight-forward and is not too wordy.
— Icons: There is a small Fairfax County Public Schools graphic/icon located on a few pages within the document, including on the title and introduction pages.
— Graphics: Graphics are utilized throughout the manual (except for within the course listing information pages) and are especially prominent on the title page. Included are images of apprentice workers as well as equipment used in apprenticeship trades that are appropriate for the document.
For example, on the “Registration and Enrollment” page, there is an image on the far left side of the page that presents a wiring system that is indicative of an apprentice type of trade.
— Tables: On the back page, there is an enrollment form displayed in the form of table which requests the prospective client’s contact and registration information.
— No graphs or charts are included in this manual.
This document contains 11 pages in addition to an enrollment form, title page, table of contents, and introduction page.
Arrangement: Information on each page is easily recognizable to readers. For example, information is displayed vertically on the far sides of the document pages, indicating which specific trades each page is referencing.
Emphasis: Most of the text that needs to stand out is emphasized with a bold font, such as for class listing headings. The title text, as well as most graphic images, include the use of color to create emphasis.
Clarity: Each apprentice trade listing contains a small bold line above it as well as a bold heading displayed in a standard font. Courses and their description information are listed below each trade. This visual language appears consistently throughout the manual, making it very easy to read.
Conciseness: The document contains designs that are free of clutter. For example, larger graphics are displayed toward the front and back of the document where there is less verbal text and adequate space.
Tone: The document conveys a friendly tone and is very professional. For example, located on the first page of the document is a welcome letter addressing prospective students.
Ethos: Trusted logos representing the Fairfax County Public Schools are displayed throughout the manual, making it seem credible. All available options, including payment and enrollment information, are presented in the document. Additionally, there is a small disclaimer located on the table of contents page representing the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as a non-discrimination policy.