Bridging the gap between API and Technical Writing

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Bridging the gap between API and Technical Writing

Let us not contradict ourselves by saying that nobody read technical documents,  and technical documents are just a supplementary or support information for any product.

Moreover, when we talk about the API documents, they are the most technically challenging documents for the Technical Writers. Writing an API manual is partially science and partially an art.

First, I will introduce the difference between a CLI (Command Line Interface) and an API (Application Programming Interface). CLI is an alternative to interact with the programming interface in a command line mode and it is a text-based interface, instead of interacting with the application software through GUI (Graphical User Interface).

However, API is the programming interface where all commands are invoked through GUI, or CLI to interact with various functions and workflows for any application, services, or a program that is supposed to perform some operation.

Usually, an API manual is mixed with the information development as per CLI structure. The people who can be an end-user, or can be a person with proficiency in using the CLI mode usually refer CLI Manuals.

Nevertheless, the user for an API manual would always be a programmer or a developer, who wants to refer how their application or software program is functioning. A programmer or developer would be mostly interested in understanding how a parameter is passed to achieve a desired result, or various other methods associated with that parameter.

So, the question that we have now is “How to write an API manual?”

We must always consider few basic points prior to writing an API manual, such as:

  • Programming Knowledge – At least basic programming knowledge is required to understand the Functions, Methods, Strings, Conditions, and so on.
  • Formatting Standard – Basic API information formatting standards such as Javadoc, DITA, and Eclipse.
  • Analysis & Interpretation – Knowledge of interpreting the code, run them or analyse them in an IDE (Integrated Development Environment).
  • and the most OBVIOUS one – Excellent communication and writing skills.

Various flavors of API manuals that a Technical Writer may have to write are:

  • API Reference Guides
  • Programmers/ Developers manual

Important points to consider while writing an API manual are:

  1. Be technically correct by executing the API commands yourself, or at least get them verified by the developers.
  2. Execute all the API commands using mandatory and optional parameters.
  3. Do mention all the required and optional parameters.
  4. Follow the correct format to write the API.
  5. Always provide examples. That helps as the best reference point for any new person who would be using the APIs.

Example:

API_Sample

Conclusion:

Every programmer would accept that even a very well designed API could be very difficult to interpret if not documented properly. Therefore, why not help in improving the existing API with complete detailing, which is easy to understand. The API documents used by the software developers and programmers must have accuracy of technical content, but quality of content still holds the priority.

A very well written API document will always bridge the gap between a Technical Writer and the Programmers or Developers, and will always make you feel as an important part of the project.

In addition, learning new things in the field of technical communication always help you explore more avenues in technical documentation or domain expertise.

Your views, suggestions and queries are most welcomed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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