Have you ever opened up a new techno-gizmo, full of excitement that it finally arrived from your online purchase, only to be dismayed at the instructions when you tried to put your new “toy” together? Or have you ever started a new job and been given a set of tasks to complete with only vague procedures to follow? Frustration and agitation are sure to take over as you go about putting your new gadget together or performing a job when indistinct or confusing instructions are all that you have to work with.
Questions to Ask When Writing Instructions
Now, think about how your company writes instructions for its customers when they put together and start using their new product for the first time. The same thing goes for companies that offer a service that people sign up for. Are the steps they use written in sequential order? Does each step in the process make sense? Are any instructions missing? Is there anything the customer should know before getting started? All these things must be included in your steps so that your customer is successful in assembling your product or signing up for your service.
How to Write Instructions
- Step 1: Define what the customer needs to know before beginning the process, such as any prerequisite knowledge or skills.
- Step 2: List any tools or supplies the customer needs to have in order to put the product together or sign up for the service.
- Step 3: Emphasize any safety precautions that the customer must take to be safe while assembling and using the product.
- Step 4: Write for the reading and education level and of your audience, and maybe even a little simpler than that to ensure readability and clarity.
- Step 5: Use present tense verbs and keep the voice active.
- Step 6: Add tips or hints where clarity is needed.
- Step 7: Include figures or diagrams that enhance the customer’s understanding and demonstrate the action or end result.
Whatever you do, don’t skip testing your instructions! Follow each step as though you were the customer to make sure that nothing is left out that makes your instructions perfectly clear. Remember to keep one action per step to eliminate confusion. Finally, keep your language parallel from step to step, which means starting each step the same way. For example, in the steps above, each step begins with an action verb. Voilà! You now have the perfect instructions!