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Writing Instructions

6 Tips for Writing Effective Instructions


Poorly written instructions can cost businesses time, money, and customers.  The following guidelines will help you write well-organized, clear-cut instructions:


  1. Organize the information.


Make sure that the information is in a logical order and flows easily from step to step.  Use bullet points and numbers to mark each step.


  1. Be direct.


Focus on what the reader must do to complete the activity and on the information you must provide to ensure that they will be successful.  This will help you to only include information that is directly related to the instructions.


  1. Do not omit steps.


To ensure that instructions are complete, include every step of the activity along with supporting information such as definitions, standards, explanations, and examples.


Having an understanding of your audience will help you determine how much information to include. For instance, instructions about how to conduct Internet research would be written differently for people who have never used a computer than for those who have.


  1. Be exact.


Provide all relevant information.  For instance, if the instructions call for using specific tools, measurements, wording, or other items list this information in detail.


  1. Keep it simple.


Use short sentences because long, wordy sentences can make instructions confusing.


  1. Take time to review and test the instructions.


Once you have written the instructions, take the appropriate amount of time to review and revise them. Place yourself in the shoes of the reader and follow the instructions. It is also helpful to ask someone else to follow your instructions to determine if they are incomplete or confusing. Testing the instructions will help you identify issues that would make them ineffective such as missing details, inconsistencies, vague information, or irrelevant information.


Reference


Sparks, Suzanne D. 1999. The manager’s guide to business writing. New York, New York:  McGraw Hill.



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