As a technical writer, you have to write process instruction every day. Writing instruction is a difficult task in terms of idea organization and tone you use to convey the message. Here are ten easy steps that you can follow to simplify the process;
Before you start writing instruction, learn the process to do the task, and know what your final result looks like. It is the most crucial step.
After you map the general outline, plan how to write the steps in a logical order. You should not skip any minor steps. In addition, you should not presume your audience will understand or do it on their own.
You should avoid giving your opinion, preference, or choices. Technical process instruction writing has to be formal and precise.
While you are writing instruction, use active voice, and begin the sentence with a verb. For instance,
a. Enter a Username and Password.
b. Select My Story from the Dashboard column.
If the steps are manageable, break it into several sub-steps, and number it. Write 1-2 sentences in each step.For instance,
a. To Change Password follow the steps;
a.1 Enter Old Password.
a.2 Enter New Password.
a.3 Click OK.
You should add a sentence or phrase so that your audience can self-evaluate whether they have correctly performed a task.
Include labeled images for each step. Labeled images also help your audience to judge whether they have correctly performed the task.
Write dangers or warnings cleary at the top or for any particular step where necessary. Alternatively, you can also include labels such as; Important, Warning, Danger, Special Notices, or Note. Give your audience critical information where required. Furthermore, use an imperative sentence. For instance,
Important: Install the application ABC v1.1.1.
Avoid using words such as; see, view, or always. Instead of writing,
a. You can see the list of terms used under Vocabulary.
You can write
a. You can find the list of terms under Vocabulary.
You need to ensure the image used matches the descriptive text with proper formatting(bold, italics, highlight, double-quotation, and so on). If you have an image with column "Action", where all the activities of a user are visible. While writing process instruction, format the word “Action.” It draws the attention of a user and persuades them to find the same while they are following your guideline. For instance,
a. Click the Action to view all your activities.
At last as a bonus tip, always review, edit, and validate your work with your product team. As a technical writer, it is your responsibility to deliver focused, simplified, and precise steps to your audience and get their work done.
Keep writing :)