Have you ever put an entertainment center together? What about watched a YouTube video of how to do something? Or maybe you like to try new recipes?
If you have done any of the above, you followed instructions. This week’s chapter is about writing instructions and process, and how to do so effectively. Felder explains the dos and don’ts, and this is a longer chapter, so I encourage those who want the full scoop to buy Writing for the Web.
How to Write Instructions and Processes
1. Determine who your audience is and what materials they need.
2. Write an introduction to your project. Felder suggests an overview, summary or anecdote.
3. Use numbers to write a step-by-step process for the task. I find doing the process while writing it helps you avoid missing steps, and you are testing your process. That’s multitasking!
4. Write a conclusion. Felder encourages ending on a positive note with a fun sentence or anecdote.
5. Proofread your instructions. (You knew I would make that a step).
6. Should you add photos, screen shots, or video to explain your process? Visuals are great additions.
7. Pull it all together, and have someone else test it.
8. Revise as needed.
9. Upload and publish.
10. Ta-da! You have successfully written a process.
Process writing is my favorite type of writing, and I have written them for years. I love the feeling when someone goes through the process, takes notes, and uses it as a reference. That is what I get out of writing.
Tips for Writing Instructions and Processes
Now that you know how to write a process, let’s go through the dos and don’ts.
- Keep it simple. Use simple language and familiar terms tailored to your audience.
- Don’t preach or lecture. This is important with video and audio, too. Give your instructions some life.
- Learn the different learning styles. This helps you cater to your readers, and will help you decide what to add.
- Use commands and be straightforward. Don’t worry about being bossy; you’re there to help.
- Don’t over or under explain. Your audience doesn’t need every single step, so stick to major steps. During testing, you can adjust the process accordingly.
- Break up lengthy steps. Don’t put more than one step in a numbered item. A lot of people do not read ahead, so too much information may frustrate them.
- Have fun! If you have fun writing it, your audience will enjoy reading it.
Felder discusses other tips, but many of these are writing rules in other chapters. Writing instructions and processes are great ways to practice writing, too.
Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite thing to write about? Could you turn it into a process or instructions?