How to write general instructions

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Intro

Use this page for suggested rules and standards when writing instructions. This guide will help you write clear, easy to follow instructions.

Lists

Lists are helpful to provide when writing instructions. They can be used for things such as a materials list, recipes items, and more.

  • Use a period to end each bullet if they complete a sentence. If not, do not add a period to any. What you are looking for is consistency is formatting.
  • Use parallel structure. Each list item should have the same logical and grammatical structure, such as:
    • Write all commands to the same audience.
    • Use main clauses or full sentences.
    • See Grammar tips for more!
  • Do not use single bullets. Lists require at least two items. A single bullet standing alone simply ‘looks off.’
  • Keep bulleted lists short. A massive bulleted list becomes a difficult to read block of text.

Steps

Writing clear, easy to follow steps is the most important piece when providing instructions. You want your readers to be able to read a step in one pass and not have to re-ready.

  • There are multiple options for writing steps. You can use a single action verb per step, or put multiple actions on a single line to shorten vertical length.
    • Example:
      1. Enter your account details.
      2. Change your preferences.
      3. Click Save.
    • Example: Enter your account details, change your preferences, then click Save.
  • Include an action verb in every numbered step. If it’s not an action, use bullets instead.
  • Write an intro statement or a heading before your steps. This way, your readers know what they will accomplish once they complete the set of steps.
  • Make sure your steps complete the process you set out to accomplish.

Step text formatting

Formatting your steps correctly will make viewing them easy on the eyes for your readers.

  • Format introductions with consistency if you are writing many set of steps on a page.
    • Example: To do this, follow these steps:
    • Example: Follow these steps to do this:
  • Consider using formatting to call out items of importance in a step. Do not bold generic terms though as the bolding loses impact.
    • Correct: Press the Power button on the TV to turn it on.
    • Incorrect: Press the Power button on the TV to turn it on.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation when writing steps. See Grammar tips for more!

Using images

There may be times when it helps to add an image to your set of instructions. Images help clarify what you are describing.

  • Always make sure the image is relevant to your instructions.
  • Keep the size of the image manageable. Images that are too big are difficult to read on mobile devices.
  • It is recommended to write the descriptive text first, then place the image after.

Example

  1. Open Powerpoint.
  2. Click the Insert tab (at the top of the page).
    inserttab
  3. Click Shapes.

Instruction template

The following is a suggested template for creating a set of instructions. The text below are placeholders you can easily change our.

Title: Keep the title concise and clear

Intro

Brief summary of what the instructions will accomplish.

Required materials

  • Item
  • Item
  • Item

Steps

To do [insert action], follow these steps:

  1. Step 1
    [add image if needed]
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3
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