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Appendix E Article Quality Quick Reference Guide

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Following is an example of a just barely one-page quality quick reference guide that should be tailored to the environment


As a matter of usability, it’s helpful to see clear, unique problems or questions when searching for articles. 

Problems - tell us what bad things are happening in the customer’s words.

1. Don’t create “compound statements” - keep the environment terms out of the problem if you can.

No: Problem: 3Com NIC X1000 has the following error message: Comu.dll triggered an error in an invalid page in the module Comu.dll.

Yes: Problem: Error: “Comu.dll triggered an error in an invalid page”

Environment: 3Com X1000
Module – Comu.dll

2. Make the thoughts complete:

Yes: Problem: Program crashes on startup with an error.

Problem: Error: “Program crashes due to insufficient memory”

Error Messages

  • Error: "<exact error message text>"
  • Error: “Cannot start program.  Required application not recognized”

Ordering Problems
If your article has multiple Problems, order them in the article as follows:

  • Less detailed first (generic)
  • More detailed to follow (specific)


  • Cannot print a file
  • Error printing file to network printer
  • Error: “Invalid page layout for this printer driver. (24301)”

Article Types

Describe the Intent of an Article

Problem! Provides a corrective action for undesirable results. May include a fix and/or a work-a-round
How To? Provides procedural info on how to do something specific
Information? Provides general information, it may be about a product or product range.
Diagnostic Describes a diagnostic process, how to run a diagnostic tool and/or the meaning of diagnostic results
Enhancement Documents a product enhancement

Indicates progression of article through its life cycle:

In Progress The initial state of an article, i.e., default state for a newly created article; represents work in progress, no fix or resolution has been identified
Draft An article the author considers complete but they do not have high confidence in the resolution (not yet validated. Or, the author is a KCS I and not licensed to create Approved articles. Draft articles have limited visibility and can be validated through reuse.
Approved A status assigned to an article when a KCS II is confident in the resolution and the structure of the article. KCS IIs and Coaches can put articles into the Approved state.  Approved articles have broad visibility in the system.
Published An article that is customer viewable
Obsolete   This article is no longer relevant. It is a candidate for archiving

Environment Information
Naming Products

Environment information should be formal and detailed, including as much information as necessary to uniquely identify the product/operating system being described.

  • <Vendor> <Product>, version <Version Number>

Examples of Good Environment Information

  • 3Com X1000 , version 03.02.01
  • Windows XP Pro, SP1
  • Siemens PLC S7 

Environment Information helps Classify Problems

  1. Do not put multiple Environments in a single statement.
  2. Modify existing articles to add new Environments as needed:
    - Windows 2000
    - MPI Protocol
    - Siemens PLC S7

Changes in the Environment

  1. Think about what the user may have done:
    - Change:  Installed the update to the software
    - Change: Reset the counter to zero
  2. Changes are not the cause - don’t confuse the two.
  3. Do not jump to conclusions:

No:    Change: It worked before we replaced an XBTVA with an XBTVM
Yes:   Change: Upgrade from Release 3.2 to 4.0

Add unique statements to differentiate this article from others with similar symptoms but a different resolution

Resolution - Fixes and Answers
The resolution should address the problem or answer to the question

  • The Fix statement clearly lists what steps to take to resolve the issue
  • There can be multiple ways to resolve a problem, a formal fix or ways to workaround the situation, these can be documented in fix statements and should be labeled “workaround: “ 
  • Fix statements should not include active hypertext links to uncontrolled Web sites
  • Use a link when helpful to point to existing documents or more details.

Structure of a Fix Statement

  • Keep the whole fix within one "statement”. If several steps must be performed in order, number the steps.
  • Use tabs for formatting and readability.
  • Write everything as a present tense list of commands, as if you were reading them step by step to the customer.
  • Do not include “if-then” statements in Fixes.  This is an indication that you need two separate articles differentiated by the environment statements.
  • The article may contain more than one fix statement - but all Fix statements must be applicable.

Things you don’t need to say!
Certain phrases are unnecessary when writing statements:
"I want to", "The customer is trying to"
"The customer is using…"
"The customer is getting…"
"It worked okay before I…"
Just get to the point!

Verb Tense

  • Write in present tense.
  • Don’t tell us what you did, tell us what to do!

Use Explicit Subjects

  • Implicit Subject: Won’t print.

(Unclear - What won’t print?)

  • Explicit Subject: Documents do not print. (Better)

The Most Reusable
Error Structure

To structure error-statement-type Problems for the greatest opportunity for reuse, structure Problems by breaking them into two "modular" statements:

  • a general statement that an error occurs, and the conditions during which it occurs
  • the specific error statement, with no conditional modifiers

If a caller reports getting the error “Post Office is now closed” when trying to send mail to other Post Offices, we suggest structuring the article as:
Error: “Out of memory”
Error: “Error writing UDP packet 8101”
Error: “No document libraries available”

The Root-Cause (optional)

There should be only one cause per article. If an article has more than one cause, it is likely that it should be multiple articles.

If you must decide between applying one fix statement or another (because only one will work for your customer), the article should be split into two!
Viewing 1 of 1 comments: view all
For environment or Product, how many versions do you list or list as Product Name 1.0, 1.1, 1.2., 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 4.0, 4.1 etc. or list as 1.1 or higher?
Posted 12:07, 5 Dec 2016
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12:48, 30 Apr 2013


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