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4.2: A Guide for Writing Your Instructions

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    The sections below will walk you through how to write your instructions.


    What is included in your introduction will depend on who is using your instructions. Your introduction could state the purpose, share who the intended audience is, give an overview of the organization of the instructions, and share safety information.


    If there is equipment that the audience needs to know about for completing the instructions, you will need to provide a description of that necessary equipment.


    Provide a list of materials or tools needed for the reader of the instructions to complete the task. A list of supplies is always helpful to make sure the audience knows they have everything they will need.


    All instructions need to include warnings, cautions, or information on hazardous or dangerous material that may be used when following the instructions. .


    The procedure will include the actual steps the audience needs to follow to complete the task. Make sure with each step you give the reader enough information to complete the task. It is advisable that you put steps into a numbered list so that it is clear to the reader what order the steps need to be performed in. Make sure to add white space (one line or space) between each step. Highlight any key words or terms to your reader. Clearly state to your audience what to do if they make a mistake in performing the instructions. Make sure to include visual aids (graphics, images, photographs) in your instructions to help make each step clear to your audience.


    Include troubleshooting tips for your reader in case something goes wrong while following the instructions. Putting this information into a table format typically works best.


    Generally, people try to avoid reading instructions. They try to figure out for themselves how to complete the task, build the machine, or put the table together. People often only read instructions after their own efforts fail. A simple design, plain wording, and clear structure will ensure your audience pays attention to your instructions and understand the instructions.

    When writing technical documents and instructions, keep the following writing tips in mind:

    • Use a lot of imperative, command or direct address, kinds of writing. It is OK to use “you” when writing instructions, because you are addressing the reader directly.
    • Use active instead of passive voice.
    • Do not leave out articles such as a, an, and the.
    • Use action verbs.
    • Ensure graphics match descriptive text to avoid confusion.
    • Label graphics by the specific step that graphic is associated with.
    • Keep text short but descriptive.
    • Avoid complicated jargon. Instead use simple verbiage to ensure understanding by a broad spectrum of users.
    • Use concise headings and subheadings to describe and highlight each section.
    • Leave plenty of white space around headings.
    • Highlight safety information and warnings.
    • Keep illustrations as simple as possible.

    4.2: A Guide for Writing Your Instructions is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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