Wiki Pages > Producing Information > Advisory Design
When writing cautionary advisories, you must use language and graphics that explain the nature, severity, and consequences of any risks clearly (Houp, Pearsall, Tebeaux 516). Signal words are tools that one can use, because these words are clearly recognized by the public. For a hazard warning to be considered appropriate it must do the following things:
  • Identify the gravity of the risk
  • Describe the nature of the risk
  • Tell the user how to avoid risk
  • Be clearly communicated to the person exposed to the risk (Robinson, Etter 131)

Planning

Before writing any advisories, research the product and target audience. Make sure to have a thorough understanding of the product, when and where it is likely to be used, and all possible risks of using it. Keep these tips in mind when planning your document:
  • Do not assume that every consumer has the same knowledge base and set of experiences
  • Write to the lowest level of your target audience
  • Place the warning before it is needed
  • Use plain language
  • Define any unclear terms/risk factors
  • Research any legal warning guidelines for the project

Design

Manuals/instructions are often skimmed, so format your warnings to be easily visible. Use the following techniques to highlight material:
  • Bold
  • Italics
  • Underlining
  • Contrasting colors
  • Placing content in a box (Houp, Pearsall, Tebeaux 516)
The following mistakes can undermine the power of highlighted material. Do not:
  • overuse techniques
  • highlight excessive amounts of text
  • Use different techniques for the same purpose (in other words, do not use bold for one warning and italics for another. It may confuse the reader.)
  • Capitalize entire sentences or phrases (252)
    • “A sentence in all capitals takes about 13 percent more time to read than a sentence typed in the regular uppercase and lowercase letters than we expect” (255)
    • Will appear as if you are yelling
The placement of warnings is equally important. It is not suggested that you place all the warnings at the beginning of the document. Warnings should not all be located in one place because they could be easily overlooked (Robinson, Etter 134). Warnings should be in close proximity to the procedures they apply to.

References

Houp, Kenneth W., Thomas E. Pearsall, Elizabeth Tebeaux, and Sam Dragga. Reporting Technical Information. New York.: Oxford UP, 2002. 252,516-20. Print. This book explains the importance of warnings and the types of warnings one can use. It also lists examples of pictorial and written warnings that one can model their own after. "Online Technical Writing: Special Notices." PrismNet : Austin TX VOIP, Broadband Colocation, Web Hosting. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.prismnet.com/~hcexres/textbook/notices.html> This source is on electronic textbook for technical writing. It contains formatting and content guidelines for specific types of advisories. Robinson, Patricia A., and Ryn Etter. "Chapter 6: Safety Warnings." Writing and Designing Manuals. 3rd ed. Boca Raton: CRC, 2000. 121-40. Print. This book includes a comprehensive guide to specific types of warnings, how they should be formatted, and legal guidelines. It also includes examples and pictures of advisories Tinsley, David. "Warnings, Cautions, Notes, and Disclaimers." The Quill: Volume 15 Number 8 (May 2004). The Southwestern Ontario Chapter of the Society for Technical Writing. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.stc-soc.org/quill/2004-05/warnings.html> This site from the Southwestern Ontario Chapter of the Society for Technical Writing explains the functions of advisories, information on where to locate them, and specific guidelines for each type of advisory. Tsang, Maggie. "Improving the Appearance of Your Technical Document by Catherine Hibbard - Green Team." Moved Temporarily. Green Team, 24 July 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://sites.google.com/site/greenteamanual/home/articles-1/improvingtheappearanceofyourtechnicaldocumentbycatherinehibbard> This site outlines ways that you can format your work to be easily readable. It also includes ways that you can highlight information effectively. Ursic, Michael. "Product Safety Warnings: A Legal Review." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 4 (1985): 80-90. JSTOR. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/30000076?origin=JSTOR-pdf> This journal article outlines the writer’s legal obligations and provides ways that lawsuits may be avoided.