How to write a guide

Discussion in 'Guides' started by Nuxohiz, Jan 21, 2012.

  1. Nuxohiz Blazing Wheel

    There are good guides that are well written in the guide section, but unfortunately there are also some that are not. In an attempt to increase the quality of those last guides, I created this thread which will hopefully help you with writing a better guide. This guide may be too long for some people to read and therefore there’s a summary in the end.
    .

    Starting a guide

    When you start writing a guide you should first ask yourself "Why am I writing this guide?" If the answer is: "Because I want to write a guide," you might as well stop immediately. A good guide takes time to write, to improve and to maintain. Examples of good reasons are that you want to write a guide to help others or to spread knowledge.

    Searching for similar threads
    There are many people active on this forum and one of them might have written a guide already about the subject that you have in mind. So the first thing to do is to search for threads on the same subject. Putting a lot of hard work in something that someone else might already have done would be a waste of time.
    How to search (open)

    When you are at a forum section you can find the search function at the upper right of your screen.
    [IMG]
    There are two search functions as you can see. The one you are looking for is the one is encircled in red. If you aren't in the guide section you should go to 'advanced options' or click on search forum and select 'guides' at the Search in forum option. Also check the box 'Search titles' only. When you want write a guide about ‘how to obtain the robot hat easily by using a piranha statue’ for example you will search for 'robot hat' first. Look for threads that could be about how to get a robot hat and read them, even if they aren't very good. Next you should search for 'piranha' as well in case someone explained how to kill a lot of piranhas fast, but didn’t mention the robot hat

    Beside searching the forum you also may want to have a look at the wiki since there’s a lot of information there.
    You searched for guides and nobody wrote a guide on your subject yet or you have a major improvement (in case of a minor improvement you should post a reply instead of making a new guide), a unique tactic or the other guide is terrible? Good, then you can move on.

    Becoming an expert
    What?! I may not start writing yet? No, you may not. Many authors of the bad quality guides made the mistake of starting to write too soon. You may have a way to kill that boss monster or you came up with a cool wiring system, but I know that you can do better.
    When you killed Skeletron, nice, well done. There are however tens of thousands of players who have killed Skeletron before, not once, but a lot of times. Those people also tried different methods. You may come up with a method you think that is the easiest for a newbie by using a big weapon and a good armor, while most people barely need any armor and use nothing else than an easy to get bow with wooden arrows or shurikens. So you must optimize your tactic and try other tactics to see if yours really is that good.
    Same applies to wiring systems. You may want to improve your system or the first 10 replies will be about how easily your system could be improved and that it’s not good at all. This would be a pity, especially if your system has the potential of being very good when improved.
    When you use a wiring system that involves speed like an engine: measure it! You cannot say: I think that this engine is faster than that engine. You must have tested both engines in the exact set up (with help of a stop watch or in case you don’t have a stop watch you can use the in game time where one minute is one second). Post a picture of the set up and give the results of both systems. Tests must preferably be conducted in single player to keep the lag to a minimum and without mods since they can have influence on the spawn rates for example.
    Also make sure that errors are small. When you look how often action Y is performed in 10 seconds you will have a huge error. Having a slow/fast reaction time and lag can give errors of more than 10%. Therefore you should test it for a longer period of time and it would be perfect if you would do every test multiple times.
    In real scientific research they always test it for a longer period of time if their error is otherwise too big and test it at least twice, but preferable three times or more. When one result is completely different you know that at least one test was wrong.
    .

    Writing the guide

    Introduction
    Now that you have searched for other threads and became an expert on your subject you may start writing a guide.
    Your guide should start with an introduction which is a few lines to inform the readers of what they can expect. If your guide has a short conclusion you also conclude that in the introduction. In case your thread is about a wiring system the introduction is followed immediately by a screenshot of the system without showing the wires and then a screenshot of the system with wires. This is because the pictures are actually a summary of the entire thread.

    The guide itself
    After the introduction you can write the guide. Do this step by step, remember that most readers aren’t experts on the subject. The explanations should be as clear as possible. Giving examples might help.
    At the end of the explanation you could write a summary or conclusion. A summary is rarely required, but it’s not wrong to include one. A conclusion however is required in most of the longer threads where you discuss a wiring set up.
    If you use a video don’t simply post a video without writing anything. Write the guide and have the video as a visual aid. However, it’s not forbidden to have an entire guide in the video, but most of it should have been written in the thread as well. It's preferable if someone could learn what needs to be learned from the guide without ever watching the video, in case someone is reading it on a telephone for example.

    Do not post your guide before it's finished. Often a guide can be found by someone saying that he or she would finish it later, but never did. An unfinished guide is often useless for the reader as well.
    Of course you can always add more once you've posted the guide, this often happens when receiving feedback, but the intentional guide should have been finished before posting it.
    .

    The layout

    Paragraphs and headings
    Nothing is more annoying to read than one big block of text. There is a reason for that big enter key on your keyboard. If you have written a part of a subject and want to start on a new part, hit the enter key. If you want to talk of an entirely different subject, you may even hit it twice to create a blank line.
    If the next subject is completely different you should give it a heading. If you have many headings you may want to make headings and subheadings to make navigating through the guide even easier. Headings can be given a different colour. Use one colour for all headings.
    Some people think that having a different colour for everything gives a good overview, but it does exactly the opposite.

    Pictures
    With the paragraphs and headings you made the guide easier to read and navigate. Another must-have to improve the layout of your thread is pictures. With pictures it is much easier to explain the more difficult to describe things and they bring in some variation. As a general rule, with only a few rare exceptions, good guides require relevant pictures.
    How to make and post a picture (open)
    To make a picture simply press PrtScn (print screen) on your keyboard and paste it in Paint. You can also make screenshots in game by using F12. The screenshots made with the F12 method will be somewhere on your PC. An easy way of finding them is to start Steam and then go to View --> Screenshots. A new window will have opened and in the upper left corner you must chose Terraria. After that you click on show on disk at the bottom right. This will bring you to the folder on your PC where the screenshots are stored.
    Now you should edit your screenshots. With editing I mean nothing else than simply cropping the pictures so that only the important parts of the screenshot are shown. When only the important parts are shown there’s less distraction for the reader. You should also make the screenshots during day time in Terraria. Even a hundred torches and shine potions don’t give the good lighting that the sun gives.

    A bad example of a screenshot when you want to show the wiring of your awesome trap (open)
    The darkness makes it harder to see what is on the picture and the picture is showing a lot of other things beside the trap.
    [IMG]

    A good example of a screenshot where you want to show the wiring of your awesome trap (open)
    The lightning is good and the only thing you can see is the trap.
    [IMG]

    The editing can be done easily with MS Paint. Select the area of importance and hit the crop button. Then you save the file and upload it to a free site such as ImageShack, TinyPic or Photobucket. I prefer Photobucket since I have an account there already, the pictures won’t be deleted after X days/weeks/months (don’t know about those other sites) and I have all my screenshots in one account. I don’t have to save the links in a file on my PC or upload the picture again and if lost the link. Even if my entire computer crash I still have the screenshots online.
    You can add a screenshot to your post by putting the link between [IMG][/IMG] or by hitting the icon with a tree in the advanced posting option and then putting the link in the box that appears.

    Language
    Not everyone’s first language is English and not everyone is very good in English. Even some native English speakers have problems with their own language. That said, you should always try your best to write a guide in correct English. Some may say “as long as the others understand it it’s good.” This is true, but what would you prefer to read when you are reading something in your own language? Something that’s flawless or something that is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? Therefore you must always try your best to make it as good as possible.
    Writing your guide in a text editor with an English dictionary might help. A useful add on for Firefox is the British English Dictionary by Mark Tyndall. When installed and active it shows a nice red line under a word that’s misspelt and when right clicking on the word it suggests alternatives.
    If you don’t know the meaning of a word: simply use a dictionary. A good online dictionary with Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Dutch and English is lookwayup. A paper dictionary that you can hold is not forbidden.
    Translators such as Google translate and babelfish are more for when you barely speak English and can’t write most of what you want to say in English.
    Not everyone knows the meaning of every abbreviation, so give the meaning of an abbreviation when you use it for the first time. When you write a guide about how the defeat bosses for example you should write Eater of Worlds (EoW) the first time. You could also write EoW (Eater of Worlds), and after that you are free to use EoW as much as you want.
    Something You Should Never Do Is To Start Every Word With A Capital Letter Since That Is Very Annoying For Many People. The only exception is for titles, but that's more a preference.

    Giving credit
    If you used information, systems, tactics, someone helped you a lot or gave suggestions (it be before writing the guide or after you wrote it already), you should always credit them. This can be done during by writing “the idea of user X in thread Y,” or by having a separate part at the end of your guide where you give everyone the credits they deserve.
    When giving people credit you should link to the thread or post you got the information from or, if you cannot find it, to their profile. When you use information from the wiki you should also mention it and link to the correct wiki page.
    Is giving credit really that important? Yes, if you don’t give credit you are guilty of plagiarism, which is forbidden by law. This doesn’t really apply to when you write a guide, but it does give an indication of how important it is.
    The reason for this is that you are stealing the work of someone else who put a lot of effort in it when you don’t give them credit. On the Terraria forums credit shows that you appreciate the work of the other person and that you couldn’t have written your guide without the information he or she gave to the forum.
    Another reason is that if you continue on his or hers work without explaining it in depth, which isn’t needed since he or she already did that, people who don’t understand it immediately or want to know more about it only have to click on the link to get the information they want.

    Entitling your thread
    Your guide is ready now. All it needs is a good title. The reason I save the title for last is because a guide can end up different to what you had in mind when you started writing it. When you are finished you know exactly what’s in the guide and what kind of guide it is, which makes it easier to come up with a good title.
    A good title is short and tells the reader what the guide is about. If this guide was simply called ‘Writing guide’ you wouldn’t know the exact subject; maybe it would have been about how to write a good story in the story section. “Good explanations of how to write a proper guide” would have been informative, but is much longer than “How to write a guide” and is therefore not a good title.
    .

    After you posted your guide

    My thread is finally finished, now I don’t have to do anything anymore! Congratulations on writing a good guide. Unfortunately you are not finished yet. In some cases you are not even halfway done.
    People will be reading your thread now, giving nice replies, bad replies or no reply.

    Reply to the replies
    Bad and negative replies are easy to recognize since they are often short and contain in most cases something like “this sucks” or “useless.” Those replies should simply be ignored, don't lower yourself to that level of behaviour. If they are very short and only negative you could report them for ‘lack of content.’

    Good replies can be negative as well. The difference between good, but negative replies and bad replies is that the good, but negative replies give you constructive criticism. They tell you why they don’t like your guide which can be of great help when improving your guide. These posts shouldn’t be ignored. You can thank them for their feedback and improve your guide or if you don’t agree explain why you don’t. If you don’t agree, be nice and stay with the facts and certainly don’t insult the other party. The other was constructive in his criticism, thus so should you.

    Another type of replies you might get are short replies in which people say that they like it and/or will use it. These replies don't really need a reply, but replying isn’t wrong either. If you get many of such replies it’s better to write a general message in which you thanks the people for their kind words and feedback.

    Finally you should follow the forum rules when replying which means that you shouldn’t double post. When you reply to multiple people you should chose to reply in a new tab/window and copy all the quotes to one place where you will reply to them all.
    To avoid writing a huge reply you can quote only the content of the post you are replying to or, if that’s too long or you don’t want that, remove all the content and write something like ~snip or whatever you like. You should always quote someone's post when you reply to that person in particular. When quoting someone the person you quoted receives a notification, so he or she knows that you asked and/or said something about what he or she wrote.

    Improving your guide
    After getting feedback you might realize that some content is incorrect. If this is the case you must correct it and you should also write a message in the thread informing the readers that you have done so, so that the readers also know about the error and what it should have been instead.

    You might also come up with good ideas or additional information which you sometimes write about in a reply. This information should be added to the first post as well, so that people who see the guide for the first time don’t have to read all replies to make sure that they didn’t miss anything.
    When you did an update you should say so in a reply as this will alert the people who watch your thread of the change, just remember not to double post.
    .

    Small additional tips for the more serious people

    • Spoilers [spoiler=insert title][/spoiler] are great to hide a big picture or text that may not be relevant for everyone. Use it where needed, but don't use it too much.
    • Avoid letting your guide become as long as this one. Quite some people won't read it all when it's too long.
    • Guides, especially those about wiring systems, should contain mainly facts. You can emphasize this by avoiding the word ‘I’ and by not giving your opinion all the time. I, for example, used it only in the introduction and when I explained why I'm using photobucket.
    • To bring more variation to your guide you can use synonyms. Reading ten sentences in a row containing the word house is boring and maybe even annoying. You could have used the word building, shelter, base or something else a couple of times instead.
    • In scientific articles, mainly those about physics, chemistry and mathematics, you often see that a new paragraph starts with small piece of blank space. This can be done by using the indent button in the advanced option. This is done in those articles to be able to distinguish different paragraphs. Whether you use indentation or a blank space between paragraphs is a matter of personal preference and what you've been taught at school.
    • Be consistent. Capitalize every first letter of a new bullet in a list (like this) or don't capitalize any of them.
    • Spoilers with pictures can sometimes mess up. Multiple spoilers can appear of which the first ones are empty. When this happens you can fix it in basic editing mode by writing the spoiler and image code yourself.
    • To add multiple white lines between two pieces of text you can put just a dot on a line and make it white with the font colour.
    .
    Summary:
    • Search to see if there are threads on the same subject already.
    • Get to know a lot about the subject you want to write about and test it.
    • Start your guide with an introduction.
    • Explain everything step by step and as clear as possible.
    • Finish your guide before posting it.
    • Make sure that you have a good layout.
    • Use relevant pictures and crop them.
    • Do your best to write the guide in correct English.
    • Give credit where credit is due.
    • Give your thread a good title.
    • Ignore the trolls and insults, but be nice to the others.
    • Fix errors and give notice of them.
    .
    Word of thanks

    I would like to thank Chokladkakan for proofreading this guide, fixing the grammatical errors and giving me suggestions.
    Farther I would like to give my appreciation to the readers who managed to read the entire guide. Hopefully you found some useful tips and will write an excellent guide that I can enjoy reading one day.
  2. Eater of Forums Cursed Skull

    Excellent guide. Should be pinned.
    EDIT: It did! woo and first post (not bragging)
    ThePalkiaBlade and SpiceAndWolf like this.
  3. Paperbags Dark Caster

    Guide on how to make guides?

    Guideception
  4. Seaborgium Giant Worm

    A guide on how to make a guide - guideception.
    Nice guide nonetheless, and I agree with post saying this should be pinned as well. :)
    Edit: Holy crap ninja'd.
  5. Paperbags Dark Caster

    All jokes aside, this is actually very well made and put together. I agree, this should be pinned.
  6. Red Power Ranger Green Slime

    I'm going to go write a guide on how to write a guide on writing a guide....
    Frostbitethetoad likes this.
  7. Chokladkakan Corrupt Bunny

    It is, as I have said before, an excellent guide. I most certainly like it, although I reckon I could be more careful myself when writing threads in this section (although to be fair some of my 'guides' are deliberately lacking in the guide department to make a point: I want a wiring subsection).

    The necessity for such a guide would imply that this guide in turn isn't very good, which certainly isn't the case!
  8. Nuxohiz Blazing Wheel

    Thanks for the kind words. It surprise me how fast some people have read it all and left a comment.
  9. 5000 people Yellow Slime

    Tl;dr though..
    Tip on how to make guides (or guides on making guides): try and keep it as short as you possibly can while giving all necessary info, its a guide not an essay. I mean you could have left out the bit telling foreign speakers not to write 'english isn't my first language'.. its hardly a problem if they are polite about not speaking english, and it doesn't make their guide any worse.
  10. mtq1 Wraith

    Its somewhat satisfying to go on a mark labeled "best method. Works 3/10 times." And see 5 superior, cheaper, smaller and simpler concepts in the first page of trolling comments
  11. 5000 people Yellow Slime

    Oh and upon reading a bit more.. Lots of this is just your own little preferences, such as the 'don't ask for likes' and the make sure every capital letter is consistent. Personally I don't care if they say 'like this plox' or they don't, but sometimes it might remind me if I've been on the thread a few times and never thought to like it. And to say a guide is worse because it lacks capital letters is very silly. Again, guides are to learn from, not to show off intellectual prowess.
    Amelia and mtq1 like this.
  12. lolke12 Green Slime

    great, now write a guide about making a guide explaining how to make a guide for the people who wanna make a guide about that
  13. Nuxohiz Blazing Wheel

    I will remove the thing about the likes and not being a native speakers since that's more a preference yes.

    The thing about the capital letters only say that you must be consistent about it by using it for every bullet or not at any bullet at all. By being consistent it looks better. It is a small thing yes, therefore I put it in the list of small additional tips for the more serious people.

    In the first version the introduction also said that it were more guidelines than rules, but Firefox crashed, so I lost that version. When writing this version I didn't felt like it was needed to write it in the introduction.

    Unfortunately it became quite long yes. This is why one of the additional tips is to avoid letting a guide getting as long as this one. To make it easier for the readers I made a summary in the end, so they can chose to read just that and used spoilers to make it easier to skip some parts.
    However I felt that it was needed to explain everything as good as possible. I could have made it much smaller by saying do this, do that, but then the reader wouldn't know why. He or she could simple agree or disagree, but wouldn't learn a lot from it. If a teacher tells you every time: this rule one, this is rule two, this happens then and this is the result of that. Would the students learn from it? Maybe they would know the rules, but you most wouldn't understand them.

    The only intentions of this guide are to get more good quality guides in this section and to get less unfinished guides that will never be finished. If I wanted to show off I would have done it completely different.

    Edit:
    Thanks for the sticky. It's very appreciated.
  14. InvisibleClarity Corruptor

    Inception isn't the concept of a "dream within a dream" but is in fact the planting of an idea in another's mind. Therefore, "guideception" makes no sense.

    On-Topic: This is well-written, well-put together, and overall seems very useful to those interested in making a guide. I won't be making one any time soon, but I'm sure this will come in handy to those who are.
    +1
  15. Nausticus Green Slime

    Really great guide, people should be forced to read this before they make a post in this subforum. :D

    Unfortunately this guide is very wall-of-texty >.<
  16. Cjimmy99 Blazing Wheel

    A guide to writing guides?

    Wow!
  17. A guide within a guide? Just a sec, let me pick my jaw back up.
  18. SUPPERJOMAN Snatcher

    A guide to making guides, that's awesome.
  19. Saemj Zombie

    For the love of god, if you are making a boss kill guide and it includes setting up an arena, or if you make a guide about constructing something complicated with wires, please, pleeeease

    use screenshots!

    that's all.
  20. General_Milky Angry Nimbus

    this sucks. useless.

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