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Excel Series Style Guide
A set of guiding principles on how to write an entry for the excel series
Excel series is about covering excel programming lingo in a way that’s palatable for most people who’re starting out with investments.
Learning enough excel to be dangerous is the goal for end user. We’ve to assume that user has no reason to know why they’d need excel; at least in the beginning.
They just need to be guided, step-by-step, so they feel comfortable using excel, for day to day finance-related queries.
Keep these in mind when building a chapter / section of excel.
Start with the general style guide section
Other than these, you should keep these in mind
Every write-up for excel series needs to solve a problem for the end user.
This is not a series on what are the different features excel has. Unless an excel feature solves an immediate problem for a DIY investor, it doesn’t need to be discussed.
Ideal way of setting up the series would be that every chapter introduces a new excel feature / functionality, or expands on a feature / function introduced earlier to solve a real problem for the user.
It’d be more prudent if you discuss how to use a particular function / formula in different ways, or what are the best practices and why, what are some issues with the function / formula a user might face.
User doesn’t need to become an excel pro after going through this series.
But if they learn even 2-3 basic functionalities that they can comfortably use to get data-based responses on common tax, portfolio, insurance related queries - that’s more than enough for us.
When introducing a new concept, be as beginner-friendly and detailed, as possible.
This is not to be taken as a signal for writing low-quality content. If anything, conveying new concepts to beginners, is quite tough. Your choice of language, examples, images, videos - all of these matter.
You’ve to also repeat new concepts over and over, in the next chapters, after you’ve introduced it. This creates a revision feedback loop, and helps user feel more comfortable through practice.
For example, one might introduce a tool / function / strategy in chapter 3. Then a new one in chapter 4.
A better approach would be to pick a problem statement for chapter 4, which also requires concept introduced in chapter 3.
Use examples to point out what you mean, especially edge cases and gotchas.
Benefit of beginner friendly content is that if you do it right; others can easily refer to it later. You won’t have to repeat yourself. It’s a perfect example of automating the boring parts.
Excel sheets are inherently tables, with extra powers. Use tables (markdown, or platform provided) to showcase how the UI would look like at this stage, after performing some operation.
Do provide an image screenshot, if possible; but the native table element is also helpful.
Native elements like table help with not having to context switch from reading text to opening an image or playing a video. Especially for people reading on their phones.
If you’re providing screenshots, please do so with Roboto, 12px font. And ideally, use both light theme and dark theme to take screenshots, of only the relevant part of the screen (both images are to be of same dimensions).
Screen-recording videos are welcome as well. But as earlier, provide in both light and dark themes.
You’d be tempted to, but the goal is to help user assimilate the lesson. That’d happen only if they consume the section while practicing.
Providing an excel tracker sheet upfront, would mean they’d just download and want to start using that. That goes against the learning goals.
We can attach the excel sheet(s) at the end of the chapter / series, just so that users can cross-check.
But let’s avoid provide download-able materials to end-users. Structure content in a way that they don’t have to download anything.