I feel fortunate that I can't identify first-hand with Tina, the long-suffering tech writer in Dilbert. My desire to provide user and administrator manuals for software applications stem back to even before I entered the professional workforce. The motivations, however, didn't stem from any false hopes that there would be any significant audience for said work.
As an undergraduate I eventually ended up majoring in a combination of Technical Communication and what they call Brain & Cognitive Science, which involved neuroscience, psychology and linguistics. I also worked at the university libraries, where I spent one summer cataloguing musical recordings by the various ensembles over several decades (mainly on vinyl). It was the following year, that their adoption of a system from OCLC (I believe it was Connexion, but I could be mistaken) led to an opportunity to create an administrators' concise guide.
When later I arrived at a documentation role, I found that structuring the manuals made the most sense if they included the following sections:
- Overview (or purposes of the software application)
- Instructions that were based on use cases, ordered from most to least common
- FAQ, including known issues and limitations
The discipline involved in condensed but clear writing was cathartic for me, but it's now been a very long time since I have had to practice it. Perhaps those reading my blog would prefer that I do so...