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5 Top Tips for Writing Clear Instructions

5 Top Tips for Writing Clear Instructions

  • 5-minute read
  • 3rd March 2021

Instructions need to be easy to follow if they’re going to be useful. But how can you ensure this? We have five tips to help you write clear instructions:

  • Write an introduction explaining what the instructions will cover.
  • Break down the task into clear, logical steps.
  • Use the imperative mood when writing up your instructions for clarity.
  • Write instructions using simple, easy-to-understand language.
  • Get your instructions proofread to make sure they’re error free.

We will look at these tips for writing clear instructions in more detail below.

1. Write an Introduction

Start your instructions with a short introduction. This should detail:

  • Exactly what the instructions will cover and what the end result will be.
  • How the instructions are set out and how to use them.
  • Any equipment or prior knowledge needed to complete the task.
  • Any hazards the user should know about before starting.

The content of your introduction will depend on what your instructions are for, but the key idea is preparing your reader to follow your directions.

Imagine, for example, you were explaining how to put together a piece of furniture. You could begin your instructions with a short introduction that:

  • Briefly explains the aim of the instructions and illustrates the finished piece.
  • Explains how to use the instructions (e.g., how illustrations relate to text).
  • Lists the tools and skills needed for the job.
  • Warns that using the wrong tools could damage the furniture.

The reader would then be prepared to start doing the task described.

2. Break the Task Down into Steps

Clear instructions will break the process you are explaining down into logical steps. You can then present these steps as a numbered list made up of short sentences.

Each step should cover a single action. However, the detail you go into may depend on what your intended reader is likely to know. For instance, if we were writing a proofreading guide for experienced Microsoft Word users, we might start with:

1. Open the document and turn on the Track Changes mode.

But if we were writing for someone new to Word, we might break this down more:

1. Double click the document icon to open it in Microsoft Word. 2. Go to the Review tab on the main ribbon. 3. Find the “Tracking” section and click the “Track Changes” button. Find this useful? Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox. Your e-mail address Subscribe Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter!

For more complex instructions with many steps, you might also want to break them down into sections. In a recipe for an especially elaborate cake, for instance, you could group instructions under headings for different parts (e.g., one set of instructions for the main cake, then separate sections for the filling and icing).

This allows the reader to take on one short set of instructions at a time, thus ensuring they don’t become confusing or overwhelming.

3. Write Clearly and Concisely

As well as breaking down the task into steps, each instruction should be clear and concise in itself. A few tips for ensuring clarity when writing instructions include:

  • Address the reader directly in the imperative mood . This means phrasing each instruction as a command or request.
  • Watch out for repetition, redundancy, and other forms of wordiness .
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon and use everyday language where possible.

The key is to adapt the complexity of the language in your instructions to suit the needs of your intended reader. If you think the reader will be unfamiliar with any technical terms you do use, moreover, define them clearly when they’re introduced.

4. Use Visuals to Back Up the Text

Visuals, such as technical illustrations , can give a point of reference that purely text-based instructions never can, thus making them easier to use.

Visuals also transcend language barriers, so the more you can get across visually, the more people will be able to use your instructions.

If appropriate, then, consider adding images at key points. Focus on steps that might be difficult to understand otherwise, and make sure to label images clearly.

For digital or online instructions, you could even embed or link to a video. This could be for the entire process. Or it could just be to clarify specific steps (e.g., a video demonstrating a technique used during a single step).

An example of a technical illustration.

5. Proofread Your Instructions

When you have a draft of your instructions, it’s time for quality control! The best method for this is to ask someone to follow your instructions in practice.

If they complete the task based on your instructions alone, then you have a good, clear set of instructions! But if they struggle with anything, revisit the problem step(s) and redraft for clarity. Don’t forget to ask your test user for feedback, too.

Once you are happy with your draft, you can move on to proofreading. This will ensure your instructions are error free and clearly phrased throughout. It is a good idea to use a professional proofreading service for this, as it is easy to miss errors in your own work. And our expert proofreaders are always on hand to help!

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Blog Training and Development

Writing a Work Instruction: A Complete Guide

By Letícia Fonseca , Apr 21, 2022

work instruction

With clear, concise, and coherent work instructions, you can guide workers’ training, performance, and assessment, maintain quality standards and improve efficiency in the workplace.

In this guide, we will dive deep into the definition of a work instruction, its purpose and benefits, and how it should be written.

Then, using Venngage for  Training & Development , you will be able to create actionable and detailed work instructions that will benefit both workers and the company.

Click to jump ahead:

What is a work instruction, why are work instructions important, what should be included in a work instruction.

  • How to write work instructions in 8 steps

FAQs about work instructions

A work instruction is a written document that provides clear and precise steps to carry out a single instruction.

As an example, this work instruction outlines the specific steps on how to file and approve an employee expense claim:

work instruction

Work instructions describe the correct way to perform a certain task or activity. Each task is part of a larger process, so every step must be followed accordingly in order for the task to be performed properly, otherwise it will affect other aspects of the business.

Work instructions are sometimes called work guides,  job aids , or  standard operating procedures . However, work instructions actually differ from the three.

A work instruction is more detailed than a standard operating procedure and it is mandatory, unlike a work guide. Meanwhile, work instructions are just a category under job aids.

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Work instructions are vital to a company’s success as they help in sustaining and supporting processes that make up the day-to-day activities of a business.

What is the purpose of a work instruction?

By creating work instructions, employers ensure that the best way of doing a specific task is clearly communicated, understood, and implemented. 

This guarantees a consistent outcome out of common tasks or projects, no matter who the task owner is. That way, business processes and operations will continue to run smoothly.

What are the benefits of a work instruction?

Work instructions enable companies to keep refining and streamlining their processes. Aside from that, here are other benefits of work instructions:

  • They help reduce risk and prevent errors or accidents. Most work instructions are prepared after multiple refinements, which means that they can establish the safest way to do a job correctly.
  • They save time in the long run. Work instructions help train employees thoroughly so there’s less chance of them wasting time correcting mistakes later on. 
  • They facilitate the continuous improvement of processes and systems so workers can do their jobs better over time.
  • By providing a reference for correct and ideal scenarios, work instructions help with workers’ problem-solving skills and serve as a guide for how workers can execute corrective actions.

Here’s an example of how a work instruction is used to streamline the process of onboarding new employees:

work instruction

The structure and content of work instructions vary depending on the job. However, most work instructions consist of these essential parts:

  • Title and short description of the task
  • Objectives or expected results
  • Purpose of the task
  • Scope of the task
  • Tools or skills required
  • Safety requirements
  • Step-by-step instructions for the task
  • Expected outcome for each step

Here’s an example of a work instruction to help employees learn to use Google Meet: 

work instruction

8 steps for writing an actionable and clear work instruction

Creating a work instruction can be a bit overwhelming especially when there are multiple, detailed steps that need to be dissected. Don’t worry; by following these easy steps, you will be able to write work instructions without any trouble.

Step 1: Choose a task or job for the work instruction

Before anything else, define which task you’re going to write the work instruction for and make sure that you know the exact steps on how to do it. This will give you an idea of what tools, materials, or references you will need for creating the work instruction.

Step 2: Choose a tool for creating your work instruction

Now, decide on a tool you will use to create a work instruction. It should provide you with the easiest way to format and edit your work.

Also, choose a medium that will be the most accessible to users. In this case, the best option is going paperless because a digital file can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Venngage for  Training & Development  teams offers flexible and user-friendly features to help you create graphical work instructions even without any design experience. You can then conveniently download your work in different file formats or directly share with workers online.

work instruction

Step 3: Write a clear title and introduction

To proceed with writing, first give a background of the process that the task is part of. Then, briefly explain the purpose of the task and the output required from it. Identify who is responsible for carrying out the task, which in this case is the worker.

As for the title, it must refer to the task or job itself. For example, in this template, the title is ‘Responding to a Negative Customer Review:’

work instruction

Step 4: Break down the task into steps

Next, define the steps needed to complete the task and describe each extensively. List the materials that will be used for each step as well. One step is equivalent to one action, so if there is more than one action involved, it means another step is required.

If there are more than 10 steps, subdivide them into different topics, like in this example:

work instruction

Step 5 Enhance the steps

Once you have enumerated all the steps for the task, add images, graphics, icons, or illustrations to support the information you have provided and to better demonstrate each step.

Visual materials can not only capture attention, but they can also enhance learning, so including powerful visuals in your work instruction can help the reader absorb information better.

With Venngage, you can choose from thousands of graphic templates that you can easily customize. Using the smart editor, you can integrate images, colors, and backgrounds into your design with just a few clicks.

As an example, here is a template that effectively uses graphics to demonstrate the step-by-step procedure of navigating an employee management system:

work instruction

Step 6: Format your work instruction

After building and fleshing out the content, it’s time to work on the format. Be consistent and follow the same format throughout the entire document. If you start with middle alignment, then the rest of the text should be aligned at the center.

Make sure that the steps are displayed in a logical sequence, ideally in numerical order. 

Emphasize important information by bolding, italicizing, or using a different font color. Increase the font size for titles and headings for better distinction between sections.

This template is a great example that applies all of the above:

work instruction

Step 7: Proofread and simplify the document

At this point, your work instruction might as well be complete. However, you still need to proofread to catch any mistakes or gaps and simplify to trim down any unnecessary details and clarify ambiguous information.

Replace complicated and multisyllabic words with short and simple ones for better comprehension and readability. Keep sentences under 15 words.

If you shall use specific or technical terminologies, they should be defined within the document. You should also stick with a single term when describing similar things.

For instance, this example uses bullet points and sentence fragments instead of complete sentences to make the document more readable:

work instruction

Step 8: Test the work instruction

By now, your work instruction is finalized. All that’s left to do is to test the working document.

Testing is required to make sure that the work instruction is easy to understand and follow. To do that, have someone perform the task by following the work instruction you have created.

If they found that some parts needed further explanation or clarification, then you need to adjust and revise the document.

But if they were able to follow each step without any difficulty and were able to achieve the specified outcome at the end of the task, it means your work instruction is successful.

What is the difference between processes, procedures, and work instructions?

A process is a series of activities or events from which an output is produced. For example, a recruitment process leads to the employment of a new staff member.

A procedure, on the other hand, outlines how to perform a process. Let’s say in a recruitment process, sourcing, prepping, and converting applicants are some of the activities involved. These activities are outlined in a procedure.

Meanwhile, work instructions detail how an activity within a process is performed. Following the same example, it means the recruitment process may require a work instruction with steps on how to source an applicant, another on how to prep an applicant, and so on.

Processes, procedures, and work instructions are all part of a quality management system. Quality management systems are formalized systems that document business processes with the goal of enhancing customer satisfaction.

What is a standard work instruction?

A standardized work instruction explains how to carry out a procedure and turn it into an action plan through step-by-step guidelines. It is different from a standard operating procedure that provides a guide for what actions to take to fulfill a process.

In conclusion: Writing work instructions can help standardize and improve business processes.

Work instructions ensure that tasks are accurately and efficiently accomplished, therefore preserving quality and continuity in business processes. Use Venngage for  Training & Development  to create your company’s work instructions easily and more creatively.

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7. COMMON DOCUMENT TYPES

7.7 Writing Instructions

One of the most common and important uses of technical writing is to provide instructions, those step-by-step explanations of how to assemble, operate, repair, or do routine maintenance on something. Although they may seems intuitive and simple to write, instructions are some of the worst-written documents you can find. Most of us have probably had many infuriating experiences with badly written instructions. This chapter will show you what professionals consider the best techniques in providing instructions.

An effective set of instruction requires the following:

  • Clear, precise, and simple writing
  • A thorough understanding of the procedure in all its technical detail
  • The ability to put yourself in the place of the reader, the person trying to use your instructions
  • The ability to visualize the procedure in detail and to capture that awareness on paper
  • Willingness to test your instructions on the kind of person you wrote them for.

Preliminary Steps

At the beginning of a project to write a set of instructions, it is important to determine the structure or characteristics of the particular procedure you are going to write about. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Do a careful audience and task analysis

Early in the process, define the audience and situation of your instructions. Remember that defining an audience means defining the level of familiarity your readers have with the topic.

2. Determine the number of tasks

How many tasks are there in the procedure you are writing about? Let’s use the term procedure to refer to the whole set of activities your instructions are intended to discuss. A task is a semi-independent group of actions within the procedure: for example, setting the clock on a microwave oven is one task in the big overall procedure of operating a microwave oven.

A simple procedure like changing the oil in a car contains only one task; there are no semi-independent groupings of activities. A more complex procedure like using a microwave oven contains several semi-independent tasks:  setting the clock; setting the power level; using the timer; cleaning and maintaining the microwave, among others.

Some instructions have only a single task, but have many steps within that single task. For example, imagine a set of instructions for assembling a kids’ swing set. In my own experience, there were more than a 130 steps! That can be a bit daunting. A good approach is to group similar and related steps into phases, and start renumbering the steps at each new phase. A phase then is a group of similar steps within a single-task procedure. In the swing-set example, setting up the frame would be a phase; anchoring the thing in the ground would be another; assembling the box swing would be still another.

3.  Determine the best approach to the step-by-step discussion

For most instructions, you can focus on tasks, or you can focus on tools (or features of tools).  In a task approach (also known as task orientation) to instructions on using a phone-answering service, you’d have these sections:

  • Recording your greeting
  • Playing back your messages
  • Saving your messages
  • Forwarding your messages
  • Deleting your messages, and so on

These are tasks—the typical things we’d want to do with the machine.

On the other hand, in a tools approach to instructions on using a photocopier, there likely would be sections on how to use specific features:

  • Copy button
  • Cancel button
  • Enlarge/reduce button
  • Collate/staple button
  • Copy-size button, and so on

If you designed a set of instructions on this plan, you’d write steps for using each button or feature of the photocopier. Instructions using this tools approach are hard to make work. Sometimes, the name of the button doesn’t quite match the task it is associated with; sometimes you have to use more than just the one button to accomplish the task. Still, there can be times when the tools/feature approach may be preferable.

4.  Design groupings of tasks

Listing tasks may not be all that you need to do. There may be so many tasks that you must group them so that readers can find individual ones more easily. For example, the following are common task groupings in instructions:

  • Unpacking and setup tasks
  • Installing and customizing tasks
  • Basic operating tasks
  • Routine maintenance tasks
  • Troubleshooting tasks.

Common Sections in Instructions

The following is a review of the sections you’ll commonly find in instructions. Don’t assume that each one of them must be in the actual instructions you write, nor that they have to be in the order presented here, nor that these are the only sections possible in a set of instructions.

For alternative formats, check out the example instructions .

Introduction:  plan the introduction to your instructions carefully. It might include any of the following (but not necessarily in this order):

  • Indicate the specific tasks or procedure to be explained as well as the scope (what will and will not be covered)
  • Indicate what the audience needs in terms of knowledge and background to understand the instructions
  • Give a general idea of the procedure and what it accomplishes
  • Indicate the conditions when these instructions should (or should not) be used
  • Give an overview of the contents of the instructions.

General warning, caution, danger notices :  instructions often must alert readers to the possibility of ruining their equipment, screwing up the procedure, and hurting themselves. Also, instructions must often emphasize key points or exceptions. For these situations, you use special notices —note, warning, caution, and danger notices. Notice how these special notices are used in the example instructions listed above.

Technical background or theory:  at the beginning of certain kinds of instructions (after the introduction), you may need a discussion of background related to the procedure. For certain instructions, this background is critical—otherwise, the steps in the procedure make no sense. For example, you may have had some experience with those software applets in which you define your own colors by nudging red, green, and blue slider bars around. To really understand what you’re doing, you need to have some background on color. Similarly, you can imagine that, for certain instructions using cameras, some theory might be needed as well.

Equipment and supplies:  notice that most instructions include a list of the things you need to gather before you start the procedure. This includes equipment , the tools you use in the procedure (such as mixing bowls, spoons, bread pans, hammers, drills, and saws) and supplies , the things that are consumed in the procedure (such as wood, paint, oil, flour, and nails). In instructions, these typically are listed either in a simple vertical list or in a two-column list. Use the two-column list if you need to add some specifications to some or all of the items—for example, brand names, sizes, amounts, types, model numbers, and so on.

Discussion of the steps:  when you get to the actual writing of the steps, there are several things to keep in mind: (1) the structure and format of those steps, (2) supplementary information that might be needed, and (3) the point of view and general writing style.

Structure and format:  normally, we imagine a set of instructions as being formatted as vertical numbered lists. And most are in fact. Normally, you format your actual step-by-step instructions this way. There are some variations, however, as well as some other considerations:

  • Fixed-order steps are steps that must be performed in the order presented. For example, if you are changing the oil in a car, draining the oil is a step that must come before putting the new oil. These are numbered lists (usually, vertical numbered lists).
  • Variable-order steps are steps that can be performed in practically any order. Good examples are those troubleshooting guides that tell you to check this, check that where you are trying to fix something. You can do these kinds of steps in practically any order. With this type, the bulleted list is the appropriate format.
  • Alternate steps are those in which two or more ways to accomplish the same thing are presented. Alternate steps are also used when various conditions might exist. Use bulleted lists with this type, with OR inserted between the alternatives, or the lead-in indicating that alternatives are about to be presented.
  • Nested steps may be used in  cases when individual steps within a procedure are rather complex in their own right and need to be broken down into sub-steps. In this case, you indent further and sequence the sub-steps as a, b, c, and so on.
  • “Step-less” instructions . can be used when you really cannot use numbered vertical list or provide straightforward instructional-style directing of the reader. Some situations must be so generalized or so variable that steps cannot be stated.

Supplementary discussion: often, it is not enough simply to tell readers to do this or to do that. They need additional explanatory information such as how the thing should look before and after the step; why they should care about doing this step; what mechanical principle is behind what they are doing; even more micro-level explanation of the step—discussion of the specific actions that make up the step.

The problem with supplementary discussion, however, is that it can hide the actual step. You want the actual step—the specific actions the reader is to take—to stand out. You don’t want it all buried in a heap of words. There are at least two techniques to avoid this problem: you can split the instruction from the supplement into separate paragraphs; or you can bold the instruction.

Writing Style

Placing the key user steps in bold can a very helpful way to signal clearly what the reader needs to do.  Often the command verb is bolded; sometimes bold font highlights the key component being discussed.

Use of the passive voice in instructions can be problematic. For some strange reason, some instructions sound like this: “The Pause button should be depressed in order to stop the display temporarily.” Not only are we worried about the pause button’s mental health, but we wonder who’s supposed to depress the thing ( ninjas ?). It would be more helpful to indicate when the reader must “ press the Pause button.”   Consider this example: “The Timer button is then set to 3:00.” Again, one might ask, “is set by whom?  Ninjas ?” The person following these instructions might think it is simply a reference to some existing state, or she might wonder, “Are they talking to me?” Using the third person can also lead to awkwardness: “The user should then press the Pause button.” Instructions should typically be written using command verb forms and using “you” to make it perfectly clear what the reader should do.

Illustrating Your Instructions

Perhaps more than in any other form of technical writing, graphics are crucial to instructions. Sometimes, words simply cannot explain the step. Illustrations are often critical to the readers’ ability to visualize what they are supposed to do.  Be sure that the graphics represent the image from the reader’s perspective.

Formatting Your Instructions

Since people rarely want to read instructions, but often have to, format your instructions for reluctant readability. Try to make your reader want to read them, or at least not resistant to the idea of consulting them.  Highly readable format will allow readers who have figured out some of the instructions on their own to skip to the section where they are stuck.  Use what you have learned about headings , lists , visuals , and passive space to create effective and readable instructions:

Headings : normally, you’d want headings for any background section you might have, the equipment and supplies section, a general heading for the actual instructions section, and subheadings for the individual tasks or phases within that section.

Lists : similarly, instructions typically make extensive use of lists, particularly numbered vertical lists for the actual step-by-step explanations. Simple vertical lists or two-column lists are usually good for the equipment and supplies section. In-sentence lists are good whenever you give an overview of things to come.

Special Notices :  you may have to alert readers to possibilities in which they may damage their equipment, waste supplies, cause the entire procedure to fail, injure themselves or others—even seriously or fatally. Companies have been sued for lack of these special notices, for poorly written special notices, or for special notices that were out of place. See special notices for a complete discussion of the proper use of these special notices as well as their format and placement within instructions.

As you reread and revise your instructions, check that they do the following:

  • Clearly describe the exact procedure to be explained
  • Provide an overview of content
  • Indicate audience requirements
  • Use various types of lists wherever appropriate; in particular, use numbered lists for sequential steps
  • Use headings and subheadings to divide the main sections and subsections in a logical, coherent order
  • Use special notices as appropriate
  • Use graphics to illustrate key actions and objects
  • Provide additional supplementary explanation of the steps as necessary
  • Create a section listing equipment and supplies if necessary.

Technical Writing Essentials Copyright © 2019 by Suzan Last is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Use English Grammar for Writing Instructions

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In business writing , technical writing , and other forms of composition ,  instructions are written or spoken directions for carrying out a procedure or performing a task. It is also called  instructive writing .

Step-by-step instructions typically use the second-person point of view ( you, your, yours ). Instructions are usually conveyed in the active voice and the imperative mood: Address your audience directly .

Instructions are often written in the form of a numbered list so that users can clearly recognize the sequence of the tasks.

Effective instructions commonly include visual elements (such as pictures, diagrams, and flowcharts) that illustrate and clarify the text . Instructions intended for an international audience ​may rely entirely on pictures and familiar symbols . (These are called wordless instructions .)

Observations and Examples

"Good instructions are unambiguous, understandable, complete, consistent, and efficient." (John M. Penrose, et al., Business Communication for Managers: An Advanced Approach , 5th ed. Thomson, 2004)

The Lighter Side of Instructions:  Handbook for the Recently Deceased

Juno:  Okay, have you been studying the manual? Adam:  Well, we tried. Juno:  The intermediate interface chapter on haunting says it all. Get them out yourselves. It's your house. Haunted houses aren't easy to come by. Barbara:  Well, we don't quite get it. Juno:  I heard. Tore your faces right off. It obviously doesn't do any good to pull your heads off in front of people if they can't see you. Adam:  We should start more simply then? Juno:  Start simply, do what you know, use your talents, practice. You should have been studying those lessons since day one. (Sylvia Sidney, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis in  Beetlejuice , 1988)

Basic Features

"Instructions tend to follow a consistent step-by-step pattern, whether you are describing how to make coffee or how to assemble an automobile engine. Here are the basic features of instructions:

  • Specific and precise  title
  • Introduction  with background information
  • List of parts, tools, and conditions required
  • Sequentially ordered steps
  • Safety information
  • Conclusion  that signals completion of task

Sequentially ordered steps are the centerpiece of a set of instructions, and they typically take up much of the space in the document." (Richard Johnson-Sheehan, Technical Communication Today . Pearson, 2005)

Checklist for Writing Instructions

  • Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Arrange your points in logical order.
  • Make your statements specific .
  • Use the imperative mood .
  • Put the most important item in each sentence at the beginning.
  • Say one thing in each sentence.
  • Choose your words carefully, avoiding jargon and technical terms if you can.
  • Give an example or an analogy , if you think a statement may puzzle a reader.
  • Check your completed draft for logic of presentation.
  • Don't omit steps or take shortcuts.

(Adapted from Writing With Precision by Jefferson D. Bates. Penguin, 2000)

Helpful Hints

"Instructions can be either freestanding documents or part of another document. In either case, the most common error is to make them too complicated for the audience. Carefully consider the technical level of your readers. Use white space , graphics, and other design elements to make the instructions appealing. Most important, be sure to include Caution, Warning, and Danger references before the steps to which they apply." (William Sanborn Pfeiffer, Pocket Guide to Technical Communication , 4th ed. Pearson, 2007)

Testing Instructions

To evaluate the accuracy and clarity of a set of instructions, invite one or more individuals to follow your directions. Observe their progress to determine if all steps are completed correctly in a reasonable amount of time. Once the procedure has been completed, ask this test group to report on any problems they may have encountered and to offer recommendations for improving the instructions.

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How to Create Effective Work Instructions for Your Business

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Work instructions are detailed, step-by-step guides that explain how to perform a specific task or activity. They are essential for ensuring quality, safety, efficiency and consistency in any business process. Work instructions can also help to train new employees, comply with regulations, and improve customer satisfaction.

But how do you create work instructions that are clear, concise and easy to follow? What are the different types of work instruction templates you can use?

In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more. We will also share some tips and best practices for writing your own work instructions, as well as the difference between a work instruction and a standard operating procedure (SOP).

What is a Work Instruction?

A work instruction is a document that provides specific instructions on how to perform a task or activity. It usually includes:

A title that describes the task or activity

A list of required tools, materials, equipment and personnel

A sequence of steps or actions to complete the task or activity

Visual aids such as images, diagrams, videos or screenshots to illustrate the steps or actions

Safety precautions, warnings or tips to avoid errors or hazards

Quality standards or criteria to measure the outcome or result

A work instruction is different from a SOP, which is a high-level document that describes the overall purpose, scope and objectives of a process. A SOP may contain multiple work instructions for different tasks or activities within the process.

Types of Work Instruction Templates

There are different types of work instruction templates you can use depending on the nature and complexity of your task or activity. Some of the most common ones are:

Text-based: This is the simplest type of work instruction template, which uses plain text to describe the steps or actions. It is suitable for simple or straightforward tasks that do not require much explanation or illustration.

Numbered list: This is a type of text-based work instruction template that uses numbers to organize the steps or actions in a logical order. It is suitable for tasks that have a clear start and end point, and that follow a linear sequence.

Bullet list: This is another type of text-based work instruction template that uses bullets to organize the steps or actions in an unordered list. It is suitable for tasks that do not have a specific order, and that can be performed in any sequence.

Table: This is a type of work instruction template that uses a table format to display the steps or actions in rows and columns. It is suitable for tasks that have multiple variables, options or scenarios, and that require comparison or analysis.

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  • Flowchart: This is a type of work instruction template that uses shapes and arrows to show the flow of steps or actions in a graphical way. It is suitable for tasks that have multiple branches, decisions or outcomes, and that require logic or reasoning.
  • Checklist: This is a type of work instruction template that uses checkboxes to indicate the completion of steps or actions. It is suitable for tasks that have discrete or binary results, and that require verification or validation.

Why are Work Instructions Important

Work instructions are important for several reasons, such as:

Improves quality by ensuring that the task or activity is performed correctly and consistently according to the established standards or criteria.

Work instructions enhance safety by reducing the risk of errors, accidents or injuries that may result from unclear or incomplete instructions.

Increases efficiency by eliminating waste, rework or delays that may result from confusion or misunderstanding.

Facilitates learning by providing a clear and easy-to-follow guide for new employees, trainees or customers who need to perform the task or activity.

Supports compliance by documenting the procedures and practices that adhere to the relevant regulations, policies or guidelines.

How to Write Work Instructions

Writing work instructions may seem daunting at first, but it can be simplified by following these steps:

1. Define the Goal

The first step is to define the goal of your work instruction. What is the task or activity you want to instruct? What is the expected outcome or result? Who is the target audience? How will they use your work instruction?

2. Gather Information

The next step is to gather all the information you need to write your work instruction. This may include researching the best practices, consulting the experts, observing the process, testing the procedure, etc.

3. Choose a Template

The third step is to choose a suitable work instruction template based on the type and complexity of your task or activity. You can use one of the templates mentioned above, or create your own custom template using a tool like Creately.

4. Write the Steps

The fourth step is to write down the steps or actions required to perform the task or activity. You should use clear and concise language, avoid jargon or acronyms, use active voice and imperative mood, and break down complex steps into smaller sub-steps. Use clear titles for each section so that your team will be able to quickly grasp the information.

5. Add Visual Aids

The fifth step is to add visual aids to your work instruction to make it more engaging and understandable. You can use images, diagrams, videos or screenshots to illustrate the steps or actions, or to show the expected outcome or result.

6. Review and Revise

The final step is to review and revise your work instruction to ensure that it is accurate, complete and easy to follow. You can use a checklist to verify that you have covered all the essential elements, or ask for feedback from your colleagues, managers or customers.

Tips for Writing Your Work Instructions

Here are some additional tips and best practices for writing your work instructions:

Use a consistent format and style throughout your work instruction. This will help to maintain a professional and uniform appearance, and to avoid confusion or inconsistency.

Use headings and subheadings to organize your work instruction into sections and subsections. This will help to improve the readability and navigation of your work instruction, and to highlight the main points or topics.

Use numbered lists, bullet lists, tables or flowcharts to present your steps or actions in a structured and logical way. This will help to avoid ambiguity or redundancy, and to show the relationship or sequence of your steps or actions.

Use colors, fonts, icons or symbols to emphasize or differentiate your steps or actions. This will help to draw attention or focus to the important or critical steps or actions, or to indicate the status or condition of your steps or actions.

Use safety precautions, warnings or tips to alert or advise your audience about the potential risks or hazards associated with your task or activity. This will help to prevent or minimize errors, accidents or injuries that may occur during the performance of your task or activity.

Use quality standards or criteria to specify or measure the expected outcome or result of your task or activity. This will help to ensure that your task or activity is performed correctly and consistently according to the established standards or criteria.

The Difference Between a Work Instruction and a Standard Operating Procedure

A work instruction and a standard operating procedure (SOP) are both types of documents that describe how to perform a process. However, they have some key differences, such as:

How Creately Helps to Create Work Instructions

Creately is a powerful and easy-to-use tool that helps you to create work instructions in minutes. With Creately, you can:

Choose from hundreds of ready-made templates for different types of work instructions, such as text-based, numbered list, bullet list, table, flowchart, checklist, etc.

Customize your work instruction with drag-and-drop shapes, icons, symbols, colors, fonts, etc.

Add visual aids such as images, diagrams, videos or screenshots from your computer, cloud storage, web browser, etc.

Use the notes panel to add more information and any attachments as links, docs, sheets and more.

Collaborate with your team members in real-time using asynchronous editing and in line comments.

Share your work instruction with anyone using a secure link, email invitation, embed code, etc.

Export your work instruction as PDF, PNG, JPEG, SVG, etc.

Creately helps you to create work instructions that are clear, concise and easy to follow. Start creating your own work instructions with Creately now!

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

FAQs About Work Instructions

Some examples of work instructions are:

How to assemble a product

How to operate a machine

How to troubleshoot an issue

How to fill out a form

How to update a software

You should update your work instruction whenever there is a change in your task or activity. This may include:

A change in the tools, materials, equipment or personnel required

A change in the steps or actions involved

A change in the quality standards or criteria expected

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Hansani has a background in journalism and marketing communications. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

How to Write Good Work Instructions [11 Guiding Questions]

Writing work instructions is cumbersome. We understand that. But we would still like to take up the cudgels for them. Comprehensible step-by-step instructions not only help to carry out activities correctly . The creation of work instructions is an underestimated, value-adding process: processes are critically analyzed and further developed in the process. That's why we don't just want to give you tips on how to write really good work instructions. We will show you the potential that writing them holds for industrial companies. Read on to find out how you can leverage this potential. Or, jump straight to the content and style of the perfect work instruction.

good work instructions help on the shop floor

What it's about

In the following blog post, we explain how good work instructions become a great lever for efficient process management. You will not only learn how to write work instructions, but also which steps are important before and after. After all, instructions should not serve an end in themselves - but can even be used as a means for process optimization. Learn what 11 questions you should ask yourself before creating and what stylistic techniques are available to optimize work instructions. Finally, download a simple Word template for creating your work instruction.

Why well-written work instructions are so important

Work instructions describe in detail how activities must be carried out. So far, so good. There are numerous instructions on how to create them on the Internet. However, the structure of a work instruction - detached from its actual purpose - is often considered only. With well-formulated instructions, you can not only structure work processes. They can also influence how efficiently processes are run through : Scrap production and errors can be avoided before they occur due to ambiguous instructions. New employees can be trained more quickly. Processes can be managed and and lived adeptively .

Increase productivity and efficiency

Writing good, clear and easy-to-understand work instructions takes a lot of time. It is therefore understandable that it is initially seen as an expense driver. However, each work instruction gives you a new opportunity to examine processes in detail and to further optimize individual process steps. For the writing of the work instruction, this means simply speaking: Consciously questioning the status quo during the process . Does it really make sense for a certain operation to take place at this particular workstation? Is the sequence of the individual sub-steps really efficient or can the process be optimized at this point? Therefore, use the writing of work instructions to examine your production. Even highly professionalized and thoroughly optimized production processes can still be improved.

Optimal support for operational employees

There are countless types of operations in manufacturing companies, which are recorded in assembly instructions, packaging instructions, test instructions or in maintenance procedures. In times of lot size 1 and increasing quality requirements, production is becoming many times more complex. Many of these operations are still performed manually by employees. This will continue to be the case as digitization advances. People will continue to be at the center of complex production processes. This is confirmed, among other things, by a study by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. That's why you should provide your employees with the best possible support , e.g. through intuitive tools and worker assistance systems . However, if you are working with paper-based instructions and do not yet have a digital tool in place, you should design your work instructions to add maximum value . Below we show how:    

How To: 3 phases of creating a work instruction

Every work instruction can be divided into 3 phases: the planning, the actual creation and the deployment "in the field". All three phases are equally important.

Phase 1: Planning

Not every process needs a work instruction. It has no added value if it just sits around unused. Work instructions are especially important when A) processes are complex , B) legally required , or C) new employees need to be trained frequently. Case B) is actually very rare. According to ISO 9001, you do not need documented instructions at all. Therefore, consider whether it really makes sense to create them - or whether they are just an avoidable effort driver. But even if you don't "have to" - the documentation of your most important production processes is an integral component of your value creation.

Before you start writing, take a look at the status quo:

Does an instruction already exist that needs to be renewed? Does one need to be written for the first time? How is the process currently executed in reality? We also recommend that processes be reviewed when updating existing instructions. The quality management representative, work preparation or industrial engineering (or the respective responsible employees who create work instructions in your company) should sit down with the direct, operational process owners . Use collaborative tools such as MIRO or the classic flipchart and visualize the current processes . Is there potential for optimization? Let previous experience flow directly into the creation in a way that adds value.

Define operations and steps of the process:

Are you planning a new production line? When you create a new instruction for it, you record operations and working steps in detail. Operations are "larger topics" (e.g. "Assemble component X"), working steps are the activities within an operation (e.g. "Assemble component X in the following Y steps"). First define operations and determine the sequence of operations. Then formulate the working steps.

Phase 2: Creation

Formulate the introduction & purpose of the work instruction:.

What may sound trivial has a great advantage: you place the individual working step in a larger context . People like to think and act in meaningful contexts. The purpose reminds your employees "what" you're actually doing it for. But keep it short.

Fleshing out :

Here's where it gets down to the nitty gritty . Formulate text, visual support, safety notes, add materials and tools... as the blog progresses, you'll learn exactly how to go about writing and what to consider.

Read over it again - shorten where possible. Do a test: ask employees who are familiar with the process as well as people outside the field if the instruction is understandable .  

Pro tip: When creating multilingual work instructions, always finalize one version first before translating.

Phase 3: Deployment

Test & validate:.

Get started. Only when the instruction is in use you can further optimize it. Inform operational staff who are following the instruction for the first time that you are open to feedback.

Designate clear people responsible for feedback. After a while, check whether target processes are still being carried out as intended. If not: ask why and take the feedback into account in the next process optimization. The open feedback culture empowers your employees, shows appreciation and thus ultimately increases productivity. If you use digital work instructions , also use the data from the process execution to further develop the process.

Before creating a work instruction you have to carefully plan the process

Do you want to simplify the writing of your work instructions?

Learn about the benefits of digital work instructions and focus on essential production processes. Download our e-paper "Work Instruction 4.0" and learn how software can support you in creating work instructions .

Writing work instructions correctly

We do not want to declare the creation of a work instruction an art form! If you work with word processing programs like Word or Excel instead of software you know how tedious writing, formatting and updating can be. However, the more often you write work instructions or SOPs , the easier it will be to create them. Even in the first phase - before you start writing - use eleven guiding questions to help you structure .

11 Guiding questions for the creation of a work instruction

For what: What is the purpose of this step?

Who: Who is to do the work?

What: What must be done in the work step?

How: Which individual sub-steps (work steps) belong to the work process (operation)?

With what: What aids (e.g. certain instruments or machines) are required?

Where: Where (on which belt section, in which hall, on which machine, etc.) is the work step to be performed?

How much: What is the required production quantity or, for example, the number of test operations?

How long: How long should the work step take?

What grade (quality) : What is the desired target value that should be at the end of the assembly or testing operation?

What safety precautions: Are there work safety measures that must be observed?

What data: What data do I actually want to extract again from the process, e.g. for the CIP?

ATTENTION: If you are looking for guidance on work instructions, you will most likely find only 10 points in most guidebooks. Point 11 (data) is usually not considered. It is extremely important to consider what will happen with the instruction before it is written. Do employees just need to follow the manufacturing process, or even document data themselves? Many companies use the concept of worker self inspection , where employees take responsibility for checking the quality of their operations.

Note also: not every one of the 11 questions will be found in the form of an answer on your work instruction. So do not regard these guiding questions as a 1-to-1 template for your production operation - but as a supporting guide for your individual application.

4 success factors for good work instructions:

Once you have answered all the guiding questions for your company or use case, you can start with the actual writing . There are no rules, no set pattern, after which you must proceed. As already mentioned, work instructions are rarely mandatory. The form does not matter. However, there are some helpful tips that make both creating and following work instructions easier. Good work instructions are:

Short and to the point

Keep it short. Like this section. Period.

Clearly and concisely formulated

Each industry has its own technical language. Nevertheless, try to use clear and simple wording and as few foreign words as possible. Keep in mind that you are working with people from different backgrounds. Maybe there are language barriers or you want to train new employees faster because your company is growing. Therefore, try to avoid passive constructions and nouns. Example: Instead of "Molded parts are replaced and checked for ease of movement", you should rather write: "Replace and check molded parts. Do they move easily?". This procedure does require some rethinking, especially if a certain "operating language" has already become established. However, it s implifies the work of those carrying it out enormously.

Visually supported

Instead of pure continuous text, you should also use images and graphics . Photos of the working step, a simple image montage with a red arrow pointing to a specific area or a comparison between an incorrectly and correctly assembled product provide great support. Even simple document formatting such as broken-up text sections already help to understand and implement instructions more quickly. Work instructions are therefore often created today in the form of checklists. The bullet point-like formatting additionally supports the faster comprehension and processing of information.

Credible and consistent

Even the most visually appealing work instruction does not automatically lead to processes being lived properly. Employees must u nderstand the meaning and purpose of the instruction - and above all understand it as a helpful tool, not as a complexity driver. It is therefore important that experienced employees who know the processes inside out at least provide advice during their creation . Often, work instructions only work in theory because they are created by employees who are not involved in production. Production employees who perform the processes on a day-to-day basis are in the best position to judge what works and what doesn't for your operation. Consult these employees early on . The authenticity of your work instruction increases - and with it the acceptance for the respective process.

badly and well constructed work instructions comparison

After the work instruction is before the process optimization

After you have created and distributed the instruction, you can now measure on the fly whether the document is really good based on productivity, scrap production, process duration and other metrics. If you have a feedback process in place, you will get valuable information mirrored. Use this knowledge to continuously optimize your processes and also the work instructions.

Of course, this is time-consuming - especially when you need to create work instructions across locations and languages. Even if you gain valuable insights from employee feedback. With paper-based work instructions, you have less flexibility to provide adaptive process guidance . You might also consider implementing a digital tool that helps you with all phases of creation and evaluation. With digital work instructions you save tremendous effort in creation, can track real-time progress on each operation, and receive structured feedback.

Work instructions should never serve an end in themselves and should only be created because "it has always been done that way". Much more, it requires planned preparation and follow-up work. To write good work instructions, you must first ask yourself what purpose they serve . The bottom line is always a target process . The work instruction is therefore a very effective tool for process optimization .

Keep in mind that processes are not static - and work instructions are therefore also living documents. However, creating and updating them is relatively time-consuming, especially if you want to capture complex processes, include media support, or create multiple language versions. That's why you should think about simplifying the creation process with the help of software. This way, you can concentrate even better on the proper implementation and further development of the target processes.

Word Template: Simple Work Instruction

As a little help, we have created a simple Word template for you. Based on the 11 guiding questions and 4 success factors for creating good work instructions, you can use the template as a basis for your next work instruction.

Shorten or extend the template as you wish - because, as described, there is no "right or wrong" when writing work instructions. Just always keep the target process in mind.

Download template

preview word template work instruction

Moritz Stern

About the author

Moritz Stern is head of strategy and marketing at Operations1. Before joining Operations1, Moritz worked at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consultancy. Here he advised clients from the operations environment around the globe on strategic issues. Previously, Moritz worked for Alstom Power, Merck KGaA and Arthur D. Little. Moritz holds a degree in industrial engineering (M. Sc.).

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Writing Instructions

One of the most common and important uses of technical writing is instructions—those step-by-step explanations of how to do things: assemble something, operate something, repair something, or explain a personal process (enrolling in college, for example) so that readers may better understand it and possibly use it themselves.

Process texts are extremely common in school and professions. In school, teachers frequently assign process assignments. For example, humanities professors may ask for a description of how an artistic or literary period evolved; history professors, the contributions of a culture’s leaders over time; social science professors, the chronology of inventions; engineering professors, explanations of how sound is changed into electrical signals; business professors, how the Federal Reserve works or how to sell a product.

On a daily basis, we read descriptive processes, including recipes, user manuals for new software, or advice columns on how to lose weight or how to succeed in school or a profession. These texts focus on answering one of the following questions:

  • “How is this done?”
  • “How can I do this?”

While the topics of a process report or a set of instructions may vary, many share similarities: most are written to explain how something works, most are structured in chronological order using numbered steps, and most rely extensively on visuals . In writing instructions for learning a new software program, for example, writers might use screenshots and/or screen videos to walk users through the tutorial.

Generally, it is good to have both text and visuals in your instructions since your audience is likely comprised of people with different learning styles. However, the use of visuals can vary depending on your audience and the intended use of the instructions. Visuals help to clarify a concept that is difficult to explain using only words. Graphics may be used to show how something looks, how something should look once the step has been completed, how something is done or constructed, show trends or relationships, add liveliness to the project, or simply help to organize information. Graphics are useful since almost everyone (including children and others of a different language) can understand visual instructions and see exactly what they need to complete.

Types of Instructions

There are three main types of process texts:

  • Descriptive processes : these answer the question, “How is this done?” These texts describe how a process occurs so that readers can understand it better. For example, writing a descriptive process about how you registered for a course online rather than in person might be useful to someone who has never done online registration.
  • Prescriptive processes : these are explanatory in nature; they prescribe how something is done (or should be done) so that readers can do it themselves. These are the most common type of instructional documents. For example, you might write a prescriptive process guide for users explaining how to perform basic maintenance on their cars, such as changing their own oil, checking spark plugs, or replacing brake pads. *The samples listed below are examples of prescriptive processes.
  • Blended descriptive and prescriptive processes make the main thrust of the document a descriptive process while having a few sections summarizing how the readers can perform the process. In other words, writers may address both “How can I do this?” and “How is this done?” in different parts of one text. Alternatively, they might develop different versions of the same document for two audiences–an audience of users and an audience of interested parties.

Getting Started

instruction write up

At the beginning of an instruction-writing project or assignment, it’s important to consider your audience and determine the characteristics (the number of tasks and steps) of the particular procedure you intend to write about.

Audience and situatio n: Early in the process, define the audience and situation of your instructions. Remember that defining an audience means defining its level of knowledge and familiarity with the topic. It is sometimes helpful to describe your audience to yourself first, and then use that to assess your message at the end to be certain it’s appropriate for your audience.

Number of tasks :  An important consideration is how many tasks there are in the procedure for which you are writing instructions. The term  procedure can be used to refer to the whole set of activities your instructions discuss, while task can be used to define a semi-independent group of actions within the procedure. For example, setting up your modem is one task in the overall procedure of connecting a computer to the internet.

As another example, a simple procedure like changing a car’s oil contains only one task; there are no semi-independent groupings of other activities. A more complex procedure, like using a microwave oven, contains plenty of semi-independent tasks, such as setting the clock, setting the power level, using the timer, cleaning and maintaining the microwave, and more.

Some instructions have only a single task but have many steps within that single task. For example, imagine a set of instructions for assembling a children’s swing set. One effective approach would be to group similar and related steps into phases , and then renumber the steps at each new phase. A phase is a group of similar steps within a single-task procedure. In the swing set example, setting up the frame would be one phase; anchoring the thing in the ground would be another; and assembling the box swing would be still another.

Focusing Instructions

Another consideration, which maybe you can’t determine early on, is how to focus your instructions. For most instructions, you can focus on the tasks involved , or you can focus on the tools needed .

  • In a  task approach to instructions on using a phone-answering machine, you’d have sections on recording your greeting, playing back your messages, saving your messages, forwarding your messages, and deleting your messages. These are tasks—the typical things users would want to do with the machine.
  • On the other hand, in a  tools approach to instructions on using a photocopier, there would be sections on the copy button, the cancel button, the enlarge/reduce button, the collate/staple button, the paper tray, the copy-size button, and so on. If you designed a set of instructions on this plan, you’d likely write steps for using each button or feature of the photocopier.

Instructions Content

Be sure to read the section on “ Document Design ” before creating your instructions. Include the following items:

Introduction : In carefully planning your instructions’ introduction, be sure to:

  • Indicate the specific tasks or procedure to be explained.
  • Indicate what the audience needs in terms of knowledge and background to understand the instructions.
  • Give a general idea of the procedure and what it accomplishes.
  • Indicate the conditions when these instructions should (or should not) be used.
  • Give an overview of the contents of the instructions.

General warning, caution, danger notice s: Instructions must also alert readers to the possibility of ruining their equipment, screwing up the procedure, and/or hurting themselves. Also, instructions must emphasize key points or exceptions. For these situations, you should use special notices , such as Note , Warning , Caution , and/or Danger .

Technical background or theory: At the beginning of some instructions (usually after the introduction), you may need a discussion of background related to the procedure. For certain instructions, this background is critical—otherwise, the steps in the procedure make no sense. In some cases, writers of instructions may need to spend significant time explaining things to readers before moving on to the actual steps involved in the process.

Equipment and supplies :  Most instructions include a list of the things you need to gather before you start the procedure. This includes  equipment , the tools you use in the procedure (such as mixing bowls, spoons, bread pans, hammers, drills, and saws) and  supplies , the things that are consumed in the procedure (such as wood, paint, oil, flour, and nails). In instructions, these are typically listed either in a simple vertical list or in a two-column list at the start of the instructions. Use the two-column list if you need to add specifications to some or all of the items—for example, brand names, sizes, amounts, types, model numbers, and so on.

Discussion of the steps : When you get to the actual writing of the steps be certain to carefully consider the structure and format of those steps, any supplementary information that might be needed, and the point of view and general writing style of the instructions. One point of view used in technical writing is the second person, which is addressing the audience as you .

*Generally speaking, writers of instructions should strive to do the following:

  • Use clear, simple writing whenever possible.
  • Have a thorough understanding of the process in all its technical detail.
  • Work toward putting yourself in the place of the reader who will be using your instructions.

instruction write up

Student instruction samples

  • Welding Instructions Sample   (student sample)
  • Mechatronics Instructions Sample – Testing Diodes & Transistors (student sample)
  • Auto/Diesel Instructions – How to Replace A Rear Sway Bar on A Toyota Corolla   (student sample)
  • Assembling A PC   (student sample)
  • How to Change Guitar Strings (student sample)

Professional instruction samples

  • Welding Instructions Sample 1   (professional sample)
  • Barbie Dreamhouse (professional sample)
  • Trampoline Assembly (professional sample)

Additional Resources

  • “ Writing Instructions , ”  Technical Writing Essentials
  • “ Instructions ” Online Technical Writing

Technical Writing for Technicians Copyright © 2019 by Will Fleming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How to Write an Instruction Manual [With Examples]

Last Updated

August 20 2022

instruction write up

If you’re looking to provide better support to your users, creating instruction manuals for your products should be one of your top priorities.

The fact is, your customers just aren’t going to stick around if they don’t know how to use your products. As Wyzowl recently found, 80% of users delete apps or software if they don’t know how to use them — and 55% of consumers will return a product or request a refund for similar reasons.

To be sure, you’re probably pretty familiar with instruction manuals, even if only from the consumer side.

But writing an effective user manual requires more than just typing up a few step-by-step instructions and calling it a day. If anything, this haphazard approach will likely cause more harm than good to your user’s experience with your products — and with your brand.

So, we’re going to dive deep into everything you need to know about writing user instruction manuals for your products.

What is an Instruction Manual?

An instruction manual is a document that explains how to use a product or service.

Instruction manuals are often referred to by many different names, including:

  • User manuals
  • Product manuals
  • Product instruction manuals

…and other such variations.

An instruction manual is meant to be a comprehensive resource for anything there is to know about a given product. The main purpose of the document is to make clear to customers how to use the product to its maximum potential.

(As we’ll discuss, an effective instruction manual will do much more than that.)

What Information Do Instruction Manuals Include?

While all instruction manuals are unique in many ways, they all typically include the following content and information.

Product Identification Info

All instruction manuals should specify with clarity what product it’s referring to.

The key pieces of info to include here:

  • Product name
  • Model number
  • Product series’ name (if applicable)

This is especially important for teams that offer multiple versions of products with slight variations between each.

Product Specifications and Description

Your instruction manual should include key information about the product, such as:

  • Product dimensions
  • Product features and functions Product materials and production info

Product specification from TCL's instruction manual

Usage Instructions

What would an instruction manual be without instructions?

Here, you’ll break down the step-by-step instructions for using your product. Typically, you’ll break this down further to detail specific product features — making sure to prioritize those central to the product’s core usage.

instruction write up

You’ll want to include instructions for your product’s optional and/or advanced features, as well.

instruction write up

Finally, troubleshooting info can help your users get out of a jam — and back on the path toward success.

Glossary of Terms

A glossary is essential to explain and/or clarify the meaning of certain words, terms, and other jargon related to your products.

As shown above, you may also include acronyms within your glossary — or create a separate glossary specifically for the acronyms used throughout your instruction manual.

Troubleshooting Info and FAQ

Even with proper instruction, your users will likely still run into trouble from time to time.

At the very least, they’re going to have questions about certain features, processes, or product use cases.

At any rate, including troubleshooting information will all but ensure your users can continue making progress even when things don’t go exactly according to plan.

Safety Precautions

Depending on the situation, providing clear safety information within your instruction manuals could literally save lives.

Even if there’s no physical risk in using your product, it’s important that your user manuals are completely transparent in this regard. 

This may mean communicating how to:

  • Prepare or store a product to protect quality and functionality
  • Safely log in and out of digital accounts
  • Dispose of products after use

…or anything else the user needs to know to stay safe while using your product. Your manuals should include clear instructions as for what users should do, who to contact, etc. when facing emergency situations.

Policies and Terms of Use

Be sure to include information regarding usage terms of your product, along with standards for quality assurance.

This can help clarify any confusion around purchases, returns, exchanges, or any other request your users may have after buying your product. Similarly, warranty info can make clear what your responsibilities are should the product fail at any time.

Table of Contents and Index

Lastly, your instruction manuals should feature a table of context and an index to help users navigate the document.

Incidentally, these features will also give you an overview of the document — and help you ensure you’ve covered the topics you’d wanted to within each instruction manual you create.

The Benefits of Creating Product Instruction Manuals

On the surface, the answer to this question seems pretty straightforward.

But an instruction manual can do a lot more than just teach your customers how to use your products.

Promote Correct and Optimal Product Use

As we said at the start, if your customers aren’t sure what to do with your product, they’re not going to be your customers for much longer.

Even those who have an adequate understanding of how to use your product might not stick around if they can’t use it to its full potential. Sure, they may get some value out of it — but they’ll almost certainly be missing out on major opportunities to thrive.

With comprehensive instructions in-hand, though, your users will always know exactly how to get the most out of every product you offer.

Prevent Incorrect Use of Product

At the same time, an effective instruction manual decreases the chances of your customers using your product incorrectly.

For one, your customers will never have to guess as to what to do next — and can simply refer to the document if they’re unsure. 

What’s more, your instruction manuals will explicitly state how the product is not to be used.

This will further optimize user outcomes, and minimize the chances of their creating dangerous situations through misuse of your product.

Offer Self-Service Resources

Your instruction manuals give your customers even more ways to solve problems and accomplish their goals without reaching out to your support staff.

In the immediate sense, this minimizes friction for your customers, and makes it just that much easier to take the next step in their journey. Thinking of the bigger picture, your instruction manuals will empower your users to take more control over their journey — even when facing the most difficult challenges along the way.

(That said, your users will only experience this benefit if they have complete access to your instruction manuals at all times. More in a bit.)

Improve User Adoption and Retention Rates

With a comprehensive instruction manual in hand, your customers:

  • Will know how to use your product to its highest potential, and
  • Will have the autonomy needed to make progress on their own

This will have a major impact on your ability to onboard new users quickly and efficiently. The easier it is for them to learn to use your product, the sooner they’ll reach those initial “aha” moments and milestones.

An effective instruction manual can also help keep users onboard — and even get them more engaged with your products in the future. 

Again, they’ll be more likely to stick with a product when they encounter trouble spots. Moreover, “regular” users can upgrade their skills and product knowledge with ease — potentially leading them to upgrade to a more valuable product or service tier soon after.

Save Time and Resources Internally

Taking the time to create an effective instruction manual will actually save your team a ton of time and other resources in the long run.

Firstly, your support staff will have fewer service tickets to work through — giving them more time and energy to spend on the more intensive issues your users will still occasionally face. Service engagements will also be more efficient, as both parties will maintain alignment by literally being on the same page of a product manual as they work through the problem at hand.

Bonus: An Asset for Marketing and Sales Teams

To be clear, instruction manuals are not the place for overly promotional or salesy copy and content.

However, they can have an effect on your customers’ willingness to buy from you. Your prospects, for example, can use your instruction manuals to determine which product is right for them — and what their potential options will be in the future.

(They can also determine which products aren’t for them, which will help them avoid a poor experience with your company.)

And, in general, offering all this valuable information to your customers will make them appreciate your brand more and more — and will lead to a number of other benefits for your company.

Qualities of an Effective Instruction Manual

Again, though instruction manuals vary in terms of structure and content, those that are most effective share the following qualities.

Above all else, your instruction manuals need to be helpful.

Yes, they need to help your customers use your products, overcome challenges, and learn more about what your brand can do for them. 

But “being helpful” also means optimizing the overall experience for your users. 

The goal of your instruction manual isn’t to simply provide information; it’s to help the user accomplish something. While the information is the focus of the document, the following qualities are just as important to ensure your instruction manuals are truly as helpful as they can be.

Instruction manuals should be made accessible to all users at all times, on any device.

(Really, going omnichannel is crucial to overall customer support efforts by today’s standards.)

For our purposes, offering instruction manuals openly and in multiple formats minimizes friction for the user at a time when they’re most in need of assistance. And, even when not in immediate need, they can still engage with the document however and whenever they prefer.

Many teams include their instruction manuals within their customer service knowledge base . This makes for open access to all manuals as needed — and optimizes the navigability and searchability of the document, as well.

Clear, Comprehensive, and Concise

The actual content of your instruction manuals should always follow the three C’s.

First, it must be clear. In such technical documentation, clarity of language, visual aids, and other media is crucial to the user’s comprehension. The meaning of all instructional content should be self-evident, with minimal room for interpretation throughout the document.

An instruction manual should cover the product (and specific product usage) comprehensively — leaving no information unsaid, and no questions unanswered. As needed, the manual may explain certain points in greater detail either directly or via additional resources.

At the same time, being concise allows your users to quickly find the info they’re looking for — and just as quickly put it to use. And, this brevity will decrease instances of misunderstanding that could be disastrous to the user experience.

User-Centric

All instruction manuals should be created specifically for the end-user.

The user’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, for example, should factor into a number of decisions, such as:

  • Use of jargon, acronyms, and other verbiage
  • The depth of explanations and illustrations needed
  • The inclusion of additional instructions or resources

Many brands even offer multiple instruction manuals for single products for different users and use cases.

As shown above, effective instruction manuals also speak directly to the individual — not to a faceless “user”. This shift in language and overall tone adds a layer of personableness to the experience that reinforces the brand’s dedication to their audience’s success.

Great instruction manuals don’t shy away from the use of visual aids.

Photographs, illustrations, diagrams…all of it (and more) should be used frequently to clarify and further the user’s understanding of a concept or process. In some cases, graphic aids alone may be sufficient for helping the user accomplish a task.

Digital instruction manuals often include animated illustrations and video demonstrations.

Effective instruction manuals are organized to maximize usability and navigability — and to aid user comprehension.

Firstly, they’ll include the table of contents, index, glossary, and other traditional aspects as expected. On top of their actual functions, the mere existence of these assets makes for a more familiar experience for users, even when the content is unfamiliar.

The information within effective instruction manuals is appropriately scaffolded, as well. In other words, it’s presented so that user knowledge is constantly building on itself, with each piece of information preparing the reader for the next.

Note, for example, how Nureva focuses first on pre-installation recommendations, then leads readers to installation guides and other in-depth content.

Top-notch instruction manuals have a branded look, tone, and feel to them without distracting the reader from the purpose of the document.

Typically, this means taking advantage of spaces where branding is more appropriate and expected. For example, Apple rarely refers to itself throughout its manuals – except when required for demonstrative purposes.

But, again, branding is always secondary to the goal of showing the customer how to use the product.

Strategies to Writing an Effective Instruction Manual

Alright, so you know your instruction manuals will need to adhere to everything we discussed above.

Now, let’s look at how to make it happen.

1. Set Clear Goals

Your first order of business is to set clear goals for the overall initiative.

Start by asking the question, “Why are we creating this instruction manual?” — and going beyond the surface with your answer. While the obvious answer is “to help our customers use our product successfully”, nail down clear statements that define:

  • What “successful product use” means in this instance
  • What successful use of the product will enable users to do
  • Why this is important to their journey

Then, start thinking about the quantitative metrics, such as CSAT and CES, along with conversion, adoption, and retention rates. 

In setting more specific and contextual goals to strive for, you’ll be better able to measure the impact of your new instruction manuals — and to make laser-focused improvements to your documentation in the future.

2. Think Like Your Users

In order to create a user-centric instruction manual that gives your customers what they need, you need to put yourself in their shoes.

First, consider who they are in terms of persona, audience segment, and how they engage with your brand. This will help you set the correct tone for the manual — along with your approach to creating it.

Then, answer the following questions about your user:

  • What background knowledge and skills do they have that relate to the product?
  • What required knowledge or skills do they not have? How can you teach them?
  • What questions might they have as they learn to use the product?

With this knowledge, you can deliver the exact information your users need at a given moment in order to get maximum value from your product.

Lastly, think about how your users typically engage with branded content and documentation. While striving toward omnichannel is still the ticket, you at least want to make your instruction manuals available via your customers’ preferred methods.

Thinking like your users allows you to anticipate their needs at every step — and to provide the exact guidance they need to press forward with confidence.

3. Involve All Stakeholders and Team Members

Creating an instruction manual should be a collaborative process involving a number of stakeholders within your organization.

For example:

  • Dev and Design teams can provide product features, functions, and specs; break down processes into specific and sequential steps; check the document for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
  • Customer Service and Support can help identify key information to focus on; provide insight into user issues; assess manuals for digestibility.
  • Marketing and Sales can keep messaging on brand as needed, and can also provide insight into your customers’ frequently asked questions and such.

And, regardless of their specialty, getting additional eyes on the document will minimize typos, grammatical errors, and other simple mistakes.

4. Create and Use Instruction Manual Templates

Over time, you’re going to end up creating more than one instruction manual.

Instead of starting each guide from scratch, why not create a boilerplate template from the get-go?

Internally, it gives your team a head start on each initiative — and aids in the development of standardized, repeatable processes for creating new manuals. As we’ll get to in a moment, the use of templates makes it easier to identify and make improvements to your documentation moving forward.

For your users, templates provide a sense of consistency and familiarity at a time of relative uncertainty. Practically speaking, it makes it easier for returning users to navigate each instructional document you publish. These consistently positive self-service instances will continually reinforce your users’ trust in your brand.

To be sure, you will need to tweak your instruction manual templates for every new document you create, for a variety of reasons. But starting with the template that’s been most effective thus far will easily get your efforts started on the right foot.

On that note…

5. Collect Usage Data and Feedback — and Make Improvements

The only way to know whether your instruction manuals have been effective or not is to collect usage data and feedback from your customers.

Regarding usage data, you want to pay close attention to things like:

  • What pages and content are being accessed most frequently
  • How long users tend to stay on a page, or in a session
  • What their paths look like when navigating the document

Zooming out, you also want to analyze the context of these engagements as best you can. Knowing what a user did before and after checking out your instruction manual will allow you to better understand their needs, and gauge your ability to help them.

User feedback should play a key role as you make improvements to your instruction manuals. In some cases, you might ask users to provide feedback via well-timed surveys and similar forms.

Customer support tickets, marketing and sales conversations, and other engagements can provide valuable insight into your user’s instructional needs, too. In analyzing these engagements, you’ll uncover:

  • Questions and problems your customers still have regarding your product
  • Information they’re unaware of that should be included in your manuals
  • Issues they have with accessibility and usability of your manuals

With all this data in hand, you’ll be able to make ultra-specific improvements to your individual user manuals, your instruction manual templates, and your approach to creating this documentation on the whole.

Use Helpjuice to Create, Present, & Manage Instruction Manuals

Let’s face it:

To create the type of engaging, navigable, and user-friendly instruction manual your customers need, you’ll likely need some digital assistance.

While many basic documentation tools can help you get started, you’ll eventually want to move onto dedicated knowledge base software to a) optimize your documentation efforts, and b) deliver a more valuable experience to your customers.

Which is where we come in.

With Helpjuice, your team can collaborate in real-time to create rich, comprehensive, interactive instruction manuals for your users — then make them easily accessible to your user base as needed. And, with our reporting tools in hand, you’ll always know how to make your manuals more helpful and empowering to your customers over time.

Want to learn more? Schedule a demo with Helpjuice today!

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Erin Wright Writing

Writing-Related Software Tutorials

Five Tips for Writing Online Instructions

By Erin Wright

Five Tips for Writing Online Instructions | Image of Jewelry Making

Important Note: The following tips are for general, unregulated instructions. If you are writing, editing, or publishing instructions for regulated products, services, or activities, contact your legal advisor to ensure that your instructions meet safety and disclosure requirements.

1. Separate setup information from the introduction.

Ensure that your readers are aware of important setup information before they begin following your instructions. Setup information includes

  • safety warnings and disclaimers;
  • required equipment and supplies;
  • limitations (e.g., “This tutorial applies to Word 2016 for Mac.”); and
  • links to supplementary material that your readers may want to review before following the instructions.

Some of your readers will skip your introduction (that’s just human nature), so use one or more visual cues to separate important setup information from introductory material. Visual cues include

  • headings and bold inline subheadings (such as the “Important Note” inline subheading above);
  • colored text boxes;
  • graphics (e.g., caution symbols, small icon-style images); and
  • font changes.

2. Use parallel structure for all steps.

Parallel structure is the gold standard for instruction writing. Parallel structure means that each item in a set (in this case, all of the steps in your instructions) feature the same type of construction. Although there are several ways to create parallel structure, it normally involves writing each item as a complete sentence or phrase using the same tense and starting with the same type of word.

For instructions, this typically means starting each step with a regular verb that tells your readers what action should be taken, such as the regular verbs opening the five tips in this blog post: provide , use , format , insert , and include .

3. Insert graphics below the step.

Most web pages are structured for top-to-bottom scrolling, so insert step-specific graphics below the step so your readers can read the step, scroll down to the related graphics, and then continue scrolling down to the next step.

Depending on the size of your graphics, you may be able to insert them beside the step rather than below; however, if you insert graphics beside the step, ensure that the graphics will move below the step when the instructions are resized for smaller mobile devices.

See “ How to Use Track Changes in Microsoft Word ” for an example of step-specific graphics positioned below the step.

4. Include supplementary information with the step.

Important supplementary information related to a specific step should appear with the step rather than in the introduction or conclusion because some of your readers will only read the steps. Important supplementary information includes

  • links to highly relevant outside help (such as a video demonstrating that step);
  • an expanded description of the step; or
  • an explanation of the step’s relationship to the previous or next step.

However, use discretion when including supplementary information because too much extra material can become distracting.

Of course, some step-specific information such as safety warnings and disclaimers should appear in the introduction and with the step! (As noted above, contact your legal advisor to ensure that instructions for regulated products, services, or activities meet all legal requirements.)

5. Format steps or sections as numbered headings.

If your steps precede supplemental information (as each of the steps in this blog post do), format the steps as numbered HTML headings . As an example, here is the HTML code for three numbered steps formatted as H2 headings:

<h2>1. Insert Part A into Part B.</h2> Supplemental information <h2>2. Glue Part C to Part B.</h2> Supplemental information <h2>3. Screw Part D to Part C.</h2> Supplemental information

Numbering provides your readers with progress guideposts, while HTML heading formats create visual structure in long, scrolling web pages that may otherwise feel overwhelming. As a bonus, HTML headings help search engines, such as Google, understand what your instructions are about, so they may also have a positive effect on your SEO.

HTML headings are meant to head related blocks of content, so don’t format your steps as headings if they stand alone rather than preceding supplemental information. Instead, consider breaking long lists of steps into sections, with each section preceded by an HTML heading:

<h2>Introduction</h2> Introductory information <h2>Section One</h2> 1. Step … 2. Step … 3. Step … <h2>Section Two</h2> 4. Step … 5. Step … 6. Step … <h2>Conclusion</h2> Closing information

My next post will outline the steps for finding and replacing special characters in Microsoft Word . (And yes, that post will feature the instruction-writing tips from this post!)

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English

GLUU GUIDES

How to write work instructions

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

More than nine out of 10 workplace accidents are due to human error. These result in serious injuries and cost the industry billions of dollars every year. Yet much of this could be avoided with better, clearer work instructions. This guide will show you how to write work instructions – or Standard Operating Procedures.

Table of contents

What’s the difference between work instructions, guides and sops, why are work instructions and sops important, #1 it’s clear, #2 it’s accessible, #3 it’s credible, #4 it’s consistent, #5 it’s short and simple, #6 it’s visual, #7 it’s written by the people that know, step 1: write a clear title, step 2: describe the purpose of the task – the why, step 3: describe how to do the work, step 4: format for easy reading, step 5: rewrite and simplify, step 6: add references, step 7: test with a colleague, example of a proven sop format, your work instruction checklist, now it’s time to put it into practice, frequently asked questions.

Knowing how to write work instructions or SOPs, clearly and concisely for your colleagues ensures they know exactly how their various tasks should be performed. It reduces risk because the likelihood of things going wrong is lessened. It also improves efficiency; work instructions ensure the very best way of doing a job is clear and known to the people doing it.

This comprehensive guide will show you how to write work instructions that your colleagues can understand and benefit from. Remember what Einstein said:

“If you can’t explain it  simply,  you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Speaking of simplicity: If you’re the type to learn things easier through a visual or audible format, check out our video below about where work instructions started and why they matter:

Speaking of simplicity: If you’re the type to learn things easier through a visual or audible format, watch Gluu’s founder explain where the idea of work instructions comes from and why they matter:

Work instructions are also called work guides, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), job aids or user manuals, depending on the situation. In any case, the purpose of the work instructions is to clearly explain how a particular work task is performed. They’re like the step-by-step instructions we receive when we learn to drive a car: check gear stick is in neutral, start ignition, press clutch, change to first gear and so forth.

What’s important is that work instructions should not be confused with processes or process maps. Let’s quickly look at where work instructions fit into our overall process documentation levels:

  • A process hierarchy shows your overall process architecture and how it supports your business.
  • A process is a chain of activities that transform inputs to outputs. (Interested? read our Guide to simple process mapping )
  • A procedure outlines how to perform a process – sequence and who does what. In Gluu we combine process and procedure into a single, simple format (since people confuse them all the time).
  • A work instruction  – or work guide, job aid or standard operating procedure – describes in detail how an activity within a process (or procedure) is performed.

With this clarity let’s move on to the topic of how to write work instructions. (Oh, one more thing: For clarity on all the BPM lingo see our BPM Glossary )

👉 Recommendation: Ensure that your organization distinguishes between processes, procedures, and work instructions, and invest in creating well-structured work instructions (work guides, SOPs, job aids) to provide detailed guidance for specific tasks within your processes.

They reduce the impact when key people leave

Work instructions, or SOPs, build and preserve the knowledge inside a company. When “how things are done” are passed on verbally, there is room for interpretation and human error. And knowledge about how to most efficiently perform a task is lost when said employee leaves the company and takes the knowledge with them. Good work instructions avoid all this.

Work instructions reduce risk

They reduce risk because the safest way of doing a job is clear and known by the people that matter.

Avoid errors and “the blame game”

Clarity avoids errors. Crucially, this avoids the blame game. When things go wrong the tendency is to blame or hold people responsible, which is natural. But if this happens often it can have an impact on staff morale. Having clear work instructions minimises this problem.

The chart below shows Gluu’s own research on the Return on Investment when writing work instructions. The point is that your initial investment in time is paid back once your work instruction has been used just three times. This only refers to time-saving – we haven’t even mentioned the value of avoiding errors and rework. This is also referred to as “Standard Work” within Lean:

the business case of work instructions

What does a good work instruction look like?

Work instructions should make crystal clear how employees perform their tasks. There should be no room for interpretation. They should not be vague. You want to minimise the chance of them confusing your workers. This means your instructions should be as brief and simple as possible. The Internet is littered with amusing examples of poorly written instructions, and others that having hilarious double meanings. Here some ground rules to help you along:

As George Orwell said…

“Good writing is like a windowpane”.

You look straight through it and immediately grasp the meaning. Every employee should be able to understand your work instructions. Avoid multi-syllable words, complex sentences, jargon, acronyms, too many technical terms (without explaining them) and unnecessary blather.

Write your work instructions in a way that makes them easy to understand for every employee who does the task. Use the active voice to help your reader, which refers to the subject, verb, noun sentence structure. For example, the man (subject) sipped (verb) his beer (noun) , not, his beer the man sipped.

It’s all very well having work instructions, but what use are they if they are only accessible in the office when the employees that need them are on the factory floor? The people performing the job should have easy access to its works instruction when and where they need it. Travellers or shop papers?

(This is where a tool like Gluu can help you to get the right instruction, in the right format, into the hands of the right employee at the right time.) 

Employees must view the work instructions as credible, helpful and accurate. Otherwise, they’re just another nice idea no one cares about. Consult the most experienced employee performing a task and ask him or her to explain how the job is done. Make sure your instructions match reality.

(Again, a tool like Gluu can help you to involve the right people and collaborate on keeping it updated as you learn and develop.) 

Work instructions should follow a single style. Consistency in terms of terminology, layout, media and method makes them easier to follow and digest. Also in terms of consistency, they should adhere to the skill set of the employees.

(Gluu helps you to ensure a consistent format across the entire organisation.)

We touched on this above, but it really is an important point. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Take time to understand it thoroughly. This will avoid mistakes later. Writing a work instruction is not about sounding clever. Instead, think about the language in your television user manual. Or better yet, look at the language used in a children’s book. Try to keep it as short and simple as possible.

We live in a visual culture. Many of us are more comfortable with visual media than with reading books and newspapers. To cater to this, try to use images, drawings and videos where possible in your work instructions. Think about who it is who will be consuming your work instructions and try to prepare them accordingly.

(Gluu lets you add and show images and videos directly on the tablets or phones used by front line staff.)

The person who is the most experienced in how to do the task should be the one to write the work instruction. Do not give the task of writing your work instructions to an individual who is not 100% familiar with the job. You can not expect an operator to know how to write work instructions to their full potential when they are not yet completely intimate with the role. This means that it can never be one person to write your company’s work instructions unless it’s small. We asked a number of industry experts on why involvement is key and you can see their responses in this article  here .

(Gluu lets you delegate ownership to the people that know – no matter where they are.)

So, with these ground rules clear how do you actually write it? That’s what the next section is about.

Some examples of features for good work instructions

create-workinstructions-sops-with-gluu

Create work instructions and SOPs

Add text, images, video, links and files to any activity in any process. This lets you show why and how work is done.

create-components-for-reuse-with-gluu

Turn instructions into reusable components

Mark a content selection to turn it into a component that can be reused by others.

7 steps to clear work instructions

Have you ever purchased an unassembled piece of furniture, got home and tried to follow the assembly instructions and got totally confused? If yes, you are not alone. It’s happened to many of us. For this reason, good technical writers are highly desired. Technical writing is a big topic and beyond the scope of this article, but here are seven steps to improve your work instructions:

What’s in an introduction? Well, quite a lot actually. It is crucial to get this part right. To do so make sure you do the following:

  • Give some context: briefly, explain which process the task is part of.
  • Identify the owners: briefly, explain who the process owner is an who the task owner is
  • State the output: briefly, explain what the output or purpose of the task is
  • The title must refer to the job: A good example might be, “how to disinfect your hands”.

What’s the purpose of your work instruction? Why are you preparing it? Asking why questions help you to step back and think about what you’re trying to achieve. The answer to the why isn’t simply the output you have already identified. Asking why is about deepening your understanding before jumping into the details. Read more about the value of the questions why here .

So, a clear purpose to “how to disinfect your hands” would be “Avoid spreading bacteria so that other risk falling ill.”

First of all, you need to list the materials required to do the job. For easy reading, it’s best to list these in bullet points and to distinguish between the materials that are provided and not provided. Order your bullet point list logically. For example, in the case of disinfecting hands:

  • Household soap
  • Liquid antimicrobial soap in a dispenser
  • Running water

Include any relevant or helpful references directly into the text as natural hyperlinks. This makes it easy for your reader to clarify things.

To describe how, for example, employees should disinfect their hands you must first choose a format to explain this. There are three basic options. The cookbook format, the decision table and the flowchart. You might choose different formats for different jobs, perhaps according to their complexity. Remember here that many people are visual learners so tables and flowcharts, perhaps with images, might be the best approach.

Think of your work instruction document as an educational tool. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and think about what would help him or her digest the document.

  • Choose how you will format the document and stick with it. If you are practising Lean, then here’s an example format to consider using.
  • Break down any steps into a number sequence. If there are more than 10 steps, then subdivide the different topics. One step describes one action that takes no more than 15 seconds to complete.
  • Use images or drawings. Make sure the image fits the text. Refer to the image in the text. Place images on the left side of the paper and keep the text on the right side.
  • Emphasise important information by using upper case, bold or italicised text.
  • Turn any list into a bulleted or numbered list.

Tools, such as Gluu’s work instruction function  in our Understand product , has built-in formatting that makes it easy to ensure consistency across. E.g. it is useful to format risks in the same way so people quickly learn to spot them:

The key rule for good writing is brevity. Short, simple and clear.

  • Use short and simple sentences. Sentences should be no longer than 15 words and should be without clauses.
  • Use short and simple words. Multi-syllable words sound brainy but slow the reader down. Make it easy for them and imagine you’re writing for a five-year-old.
  • Avoid acronyms, and if you must use one then spell it out the first time and enclose the acronym in brackets next to it. Use the acronym from then on.
  • Include a list of abbreviations the reader can refer to.
  • Decide which word or term you will use to describe something and stick with that. Don’t use different words for the same thing. For example, if you use the term “household soap” then only use that throughout the whole document.

As discussed above, use active sentences, not passive:

Correct : Dry your hands thoroughly.

Incorrect : Your hands should be dried thoroughly.

It’s always helpful to provide sources and suggestions for further reading and learning. Either add footnotes or have an appendix at the end of the document.

To make sure your work instructions are easy to understand and follow, ask a colleague to perform the task by following it. This will tell you if certain parts or explanations are confusing or need further clarification.

  • Ask an appropriate colleague to read the draft of your work instruction and to give you feedback on it. Does the work instruction match the way the task is performed in reality? Is it confusing? What could be clearer?
  • Request the colleague to perform the job by following the draft work instruction. Do NOT help him/her, or give further explanations. Observe.
  • Make notes of what should be added or changed on your copy of the work instruction.

👉 Recommendation: Incorporate these 7 steps into your work instruction writing process to ensure clarity, simplicity, and effectiveness in conveying information to your audience.

Lean.org has some useful templates for writing Standard Work Job Instructions. These are mostly for more advanced factory settings:

example of TWI work instructions

Source: https://www.lean.org/

To summarise and simplify, here’s a checklist for you to have on hand when you’re planning how to write your next work instruction.

  • Identified process the task is part of
  • Identified the purpose of the task
  • Understood the task’s scope
  • Named people responsible for the task
  • Stated tools required for the task
  • Mentioned any safety requirements
  • Chosen an appropriate and helpful format
  • Used helpful visual aids
  • Checked for simple language and short sentences
  • Removed unnecessary jargon and technical terms
  • Tested on a colleague.

As we often say, it’s important to remember that

“Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Just start and learn and improve as you go. One idea is to inform your colleagues what you’re doing and ask them to point out any mistakes or oversights. This will ensure your work instruction is well received. Here at Gluu, we believe in writing work instructions within an integrated system to manage business processes.

…or if you’re feeling ready check out our work instructions feature  to get started on your own work instructions right now.

Work instructions serve to clearly explain how specific tasks should be performed in a concise and easily understandable manner. They reduce the risk of errors, enhance efficiency, and help preserve essential knowledge within a company.

Work instructions provide detailed guidance on how to perform a specific activity within a process or procedure. Processes represent the overall flow of activities, while procedures outline the sequence of actions and responsibilities. Work instructions focus on the specifics of task execution.

Craft a clear title, explain the task’s purpose, list materials logically, use visuals, simplify language, add references, and test with a colleague.

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12 Instructions

Chapter attributions.

David McMurrey & Cassandra Race

Writing Instructions

The focus for this chapter is one of the most important of all uses of technical writing—instructions. As you know,  instructions  are those step-by-step explanations of how to do something: how to build, operate, repair, or maintain things.

One of the most common and one of the most important uses of technical writing is instructions—those step-by-step explanations of how to do things: assemble something, operate something, repair something, or do routine maintenance on something. But for something seemingly so easy and intuitive, instructions are some of the worst-written documents you can find. Like me, you’ve probably had many infuriating experiences with badly written instructions. What follows in this chapter may not be a fool-proof, goof-proof guide to writing instructions, but it will show you what professionals consider the best techniques.

Ultimately, good instruction writing requires:

  • Clear, concise writing
  • A thorough understanding of the procedure in all its technical detail
  • Your ability to put yourself in the place of the reader, the person trying to use your instructions
  • Your ability to visualize the procedure in great detail and to capture that awareness on paper
  • Finally, your willingness to go that extra distance and test your instructions on the kind of person you wrote them for.

By now, you’ve probably studied headings, lists, and special notices—writing a set of instructions with these tools probably seems obvious. Just break the discussion out into numbered vertical lists and throw in some special notices at the obvious points and you’re done! Well, not quite, but that’s a great start. This chapter explores some of the features of instructions that can make them more complex. You can in turn use these considerations to plan your own instructions.

Some Similarities

At the beginning of a project to write instructions, it’s important to  determine the structure  or characteristics of the particular procedure you are going to write about. Particularly in technical instructions, your understanding of the procedure could make the difference between success and failure, or at more complex levels, life and death.

Early in the process,  define the audience and situation  of your instructions. Remember that defining an audience means defining its level of familiarity with the topic as well as other details, including age and ability level. See the discussion of audiences and steps to use in defining audiences.

If you are in a writing course, you may need to  write a description of your audience  and attach that to your instructions. This will enable your instructor to assess your instructions in terms of their rightness for the intended audience. And remember too that in a technical-writing course it is preferable to write for nonspecialist audiences—much more of a challenge to you as a writer.

Next, examine the procedure you are describing to  determine the number of tasks . How many tasks are there in the procedure you are writing about? Let’s use the term  procedure  to refer to the whole set of activities your instructions are intended to discuss. A  task  is a semi-independent group of actions within the procedure: for example, setting the clock on a microwave oven is one task in the big overall procedure of operating a microwave oven.

A  simple procedure  like changing the oil in a car contains only one task; there are no semi-independent groupings of activities. Within that task are a number of steps, such as removing the plug, draining the old oil, replacing the filter, and adding the new oil. If you were writing instructions on maintaining your car yourself to save money, you would have several tasks, some which are independent, such as rotating the tires, checking the fluids, or replacing the windshield wiper blades.

A  complex procedure  like using a microwave oven is another example of a procedure that contains plenty of such semi-independent tasks: setting the clock; setting the power level; using the timer; and cleaning and maintaining the microwave.

There may be more to your instructions than just tasks. Some instructions have only a single task, but have many steps within that single task. For example, imagine a set of instructions for assembling a kids’ swing set. In my own experience, there were more than a 130 steps! That can be a bit daunting. A good approach is to group similar and related steps into  phases , and start renumbering the steps at each new phase.  A  phase  then is a group of similar steps within a single-task procedure . In the swing-set example, setting up the frame would be a phase; anchoring the thing in the ground would be another; and assembling the box swing would be still another.

Another consideration, which maybe you can’t determine early on, is how to  focus your instructions . For most instructions, you can focus on  tasks , or you can focus on  tools (or features of tools). Your approach will depend on your overall objective in writing the instructions, and you will find that the task approach is one you will probably use most often, with the discussion of the tools included in notes or supplementary sections like a glossary.

“Use task orientation. Focus on the tasks your readers want to perform; use how to or -ing phrasing on headings.”

In a  task approach  (also known as task orientation) to instructions on using a phone-answering service, you’d have these sections:

  • recording your greeting
  • playing back your messages
  • saving your messages
  • forwarding your messages
  • deleting your messages, and so on

These are tasks—the typical things we’d want to do with the machine.

On the other hand, in a  tools approach  to instructions on using a photocopier, there would be these unlikely sections:

  • copy button
  • cancel button
  • enlarge/reduce button
  • collate/staple button
  • copy-size button, and so on

If you designed a set of instructions on this plan, you’d write steps for using each button or feature of the photocopier. Instructions using this approach are hard to make work. Sometimes, the name of the button doesn’t quite match the task it is associated with; sometimes you have to use more than just the one button to accomplish the task. Still, there can be times when the tools/feature approach may be preferable.

Finally, you have to decide how your are going to group tasks if there are more than one. Simply listing tasks may not be all that you need to do. There may be so many tasks that you must group them so that readers can find individual ones more easily. For example, the following are common task groupings in instructions:

  • unpacking and setup tasks
  • installing and customizing tasks
  • basic operating tasks
  • routine maintenance tasks
  • troubleshooting tasks; and so on

Common Sections in Instruction

The following is a review of the sections you’ll commonly find in instructions.

Title.  Naturally you need one, and it should be concise. Avoid awkward noun strings like “Amazing Pizza Rolls Baking Instructions” and instead opt for the “how to”, such as “How to Clean Your G.E Microwave” or the gerund, or -ing word phrase, such as “Maintaining Your Apple iPhone.”

Date.  With technical instructions, the date is crucial. It enables the reader to be certain that these instructions are the most current, and if they are not, where these instructions belong in the line of documents related to this product or procedure.

Table of Contents . If your instructions consist of multiple tasks or have multiple sections, or if they are being presented in the form of a manual, a table of contents is necessary.

Introduction.  Plan the introduction to your instructions carefully. Make sure it does any of the following things (but not necessarily in this order) that apply to your particular instructions:

  • Indicate the specific tasks or procedure to be explained as well as the scope of coverage (what  won’t  be covered).
  • Indicate what the audience needs in terms of knowledge and background to understand the instructions. You may also specify audience age here.
  • Give a general idea of the procedure and what it accomplishes. If this is a lengthy set of instructions, indicate how much time may be necessary to complete the task or procedure.
  • Indicate the conditions when these instructions should (or should not) be used.
  • Give an overview of the contents of the instructions.

General warning, caution, danger notices.  Instructions often must alert readers to the possibility of ruining their equipment, screwing up the procedure, and hurting themselves. Also, instructions must often emphasize key points or exceptions. For these situations, you use special notices—note, warning, caution, and danger notices. Typically, danger means that there is a risk of severe bodily harm or death; warning means there is actual risk of bodily harm or major damage to the product; caution means be careful here—there might be a risk; and a note is used to explain details, or tell how to trouble shoot a step within a task.

Technical background or theory.  At the beginning of certain kinds of instructions (after the introduction, of course), you may need a discussion of background related to the procedure. For certain instructions, this background is critical—otherwise, the steps in the procedure make no sense. Here is where you get to show your expertise in writing technical definitions and descriptions.  For example, you may have had some experience with those software applets in which you define your own colors by nudging red, green, and blue slider bars around. To really understand what you’re doing, you need to have some background on color. Similarly, you can imagine that, for certain instructions using cameras, some theory might be needed as well.

Equipment and supplies.  Notice that most instructions include a list of the things you need to gather before you start the procedure. This includes equipment, the tools you use in the procedure (such as mixing bowls, spoons, bread pans, hammers, drills, and saws), and supplies, the things that are consumed in the procedure (such as wood, paint, oil, flour, and nails). In instructions, these typically are listed either in a simple vertical list or in a two-column list. Use the two-column list if you need to add some specifications to some or all of the items—for example, brand names, sizes, amounts, types, model numbers, and so on. This may be a good place to use graphics or visuals, especially if a necessary tool is a specialty item.

Discussion of the steps.  When you get to the actual writing of the steps, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • the structure and format of those steps
  • supplementary information that might be needed
  • the point of view and general writing style

Structure and format.  Normally, we imagine a set of instructions as being formatted as vertical numbered lists. And most are in fact. Normally, you format your actual step-by-step instructions this way. There are some variations, however, as well as some other considerations:

  • Fixed-order steps  are steps that must be performed in the order presented. For example, if you are changing the oil in a car, draining the oil is a step that must come before putting the new oil. These are numbered lists (usually, vertical numbered lists). When in doubt, structure your instructions in this format. You may then use notes to indicate if there is any leeway to perform the steps in another sequence.
  • Variable-order steps  are steps that can be performed in practically any order. Good examples are those troubleshooting guides that tell you to “check this, check that” where you are trying to fix something. You can do these kinds of steps in practically any order. With this type, the bulleted list is the appropriate format.
  • Alternate steps  are those in which two or more ways to accomplish the same thing are presented. Alternate steps are also used when various conditions might exist. Use bulleted lists with this type, with “OR” inserted between the alternatives, or the lead-in indicating that alternatives are about to be presented.
  • Nested steps  are those in which individual steps within a procedure can be rather complex in their own right and need to be broken down into substeps. In this case, you indent further and sequence the substeps as a, b, c, and so on.
  • “Stepless” instructions  are those that really cannot use numbered vertical lists and that do little if any straightforward instructional-style directing of the reader. Some situations must be so generalized or so variable that steps cannot be stated.

Supplementary discussion . Often, it is not enough simply to tell readers to do this or to do that. They need additional explanatory information such as how the thing should look before and after the step; why they should care about doing this step; what mechanical principle is behind what they are doing; and even more micro-level explanation of the step—discussion of the specific actions that make up the step.

The problem with supplementary discussion, however, is that it can hide the actual step. You want the actual step—the specific actions the reader is to take—to stand out. You don’t want it all buried in a heap of words.

There are at least two techniques to avoid this problem: you can split the instruction from the supplement into separate paragraphs; or you can bold the instruction. The example below shows you a possible technique for including supplementary discussion so that it doesn’t obscure the instructions.

How to change engine oil in six steps

When changing engine oil, always check the owner’s manual to find the correct amount and type of oil and filter needed.

  • Start the vehicle and allow the engine to warm up for a minute.  This allows the existing oil in the engine to warm up so that it drains out very smoothly.
  • Locate the oil pan drain plug and remove the plug for draining.  Removing the fill cap and pulling the oil dipstick will allow good flow for the oil while draining. If there is more than one plug, drain the oil from both plugs into a container.

Caution:  Be careful because the old oil may be hot and could burn you.

Bolding actual user steps in instructions. Bold text helps distinguish the actual action from the supplementary information

Writing style.  The way you actually write instructions, sentence by sentence, may seem contradictory to what previous writing classes have taught you. However, notice how “real-world” instructions are written—they use a lot of imperative (command, or direct-address) kinds of writing; they use a lot of “you.” That’s entirely appropriate. You want to get in your reader’s face, get her or his full attention. For that reason, instruction-style sentences sound like these: “Press the Pause button on the front panel to stop the display temporarily” and a clarifying note might read “You should be careful not to…”

If your instructions have to be more formal, ask your teacher about preferences for using “you.” You may find that the direct address isn’t appropriate for certain contexts.

For the most effective instructions,  begin each step with an action verb.

Never   use the passive voice in instructions . For some weird reason, some instructions sound like this: “The Pause button should be depressed in order to stop the display temporarily.” Not only are we worried about the Pause button’s mental health, but we wonder who’s supposed to depress the thing (are you talkin’ to me?). Or consider this example: “The Timer button is then set to 3:00.” Again, as the person following these instructions, you might miss this; you might think it is simply a reference to some existing state, or you might wonder, “Are they talking to me?” Almost as bad is using the third person: “The user should then press the Pause button.” Again, it’s the old double-take: you look around the room and wonder, “Who me?”

Another of the typical problems with writing style in instructions is that people seem to want to leave out articles: “Press Pause button on front panel to stop display of information temporarily” or “Earthperson, please provide address of nearest pizza restaurant.” Why do we do this? Do we all secretly want to be robots? Anyway, be sure to include all articles ( a ,  an ,  the ) and other such words that we’d normally use in instructions.

Conclusion.  You really don’t want to just end your instructions with the last step. A conclusion ties the process up neatly; offers trouble shooting information (i.e. what to do if something went wrong); and, if you are writing the instructions as part of your work responsibility, should include contact information.

Other Back Matter . Your set of instructions may include a list of references, a glossary or appendix, an index, or technical specifications. Items placed here are important to the overall instructions because they provide additional information that certain audiences may need, but that are not critical to understanding how to complete the procedure.

Graphics and Images in Instructions

Probably more so than in any other form of writing (except maybe for comic books), graphics are crucial to instructions. Sometimes, words simply cannot explain the step. Illustrations are often critical to readers’ ability to visualize what they are supposed to do. Consider the example of car repair manuals which actually use photographs to illustrate procedures, or screen shots that demonstrate the process of using software.

In a technical writing course, instructions may require you to include illustrations or other kinds of graphics—whatever would normally be used in the instructions. Just be sure that the graphics you choose are appropriate and  placed in close proximity to the steps  they illustrate. Don’t make your audience flip pages to see the accompanying graphic.

If you don’t create your own graphics or images, and find them in other sources, be sure that you cite the source, preferably right below the graphic.

Format in Instructions

Headings.  In your instructions, make good use of headings. Normally, you’d want headings for any background section you might have, the equipment and supplies section, a general heading for the actual instructions section, and subheadings for the individual tasks or phases within that section. Take a look at the examples at the beginning of this chapter.

Lists.  Similarly, instructions typically make heavy use of lists, particularly numbered vertical lists for the actual step-by-step explanations. Simple vertical lists or two-column lists are usually good for the equipment and supplies section. In-sentence lists are good whenever you give an overview of things to come.

Special notices.  In instructions, you must alert readers to possibilities in which they may damage their equipment, waste supplies, cause the entire procedure to fail, or injure themselves or others—even seriously or fatally. Companies have been sued for lack of these special notices, for poorly written special notices, or for special notices that were out of place.

Replace the Guitar Neck

If you’ve followed the previous steps, your fretboard is now scalloped. The only thing left to do is put your guitar back together. To put it back together, follow these steps:

  • Remove the tape from the frets.
  • Insert the neck back into the body.
  • Put the metal panel back in its place and put in the screws.  Note : Make sure that you put each screw firmly back in place. The screws keep the neck secure inside the body. If the screws are not installed correctly, the guitar could develop intonation problems.
  • Restring the guitar.

Mounting the NID

Follow these instructions to mount the network interface device (NID) on the wall:

Warning : Always wear safety glasses when using hand tools. Misuse of the tool or ricochet from power tools can result in eye injury.

  • Select the location for the NID. This should be close to an electrical ground and located in a place where the ISP’s wire will reach the NID. The electrical ground can be identified as a copper wire coming from the electric company’s equipment on the exterior of your home.
  • Drill the NID into place using the screws. You will need to drill screws into the slots on the top and bottom of the NID.

Indentation of notices in instructions.  In the first example, notice how the notice is indented to the text of the preceding step. In the second example, notice that the severe notice is placed at the beginning before any of the steps.

Number, abbreviations, and symbols.  Instructions also use plenty of numbers, abbreviations, and symbols. Be sure you are using them correctly. Remember if your instructions pertain to a brand name product to use trademark symbols appropriately.

Revision Checklist for Instructions

As you reread and revise your instructions, watch out for problems such as the following:

  • Make sure you provide real instructions—explanations of how to build, operate, or repair something.
  • Identify where the instructions will be used.
  • Write a good introduction—in it, indicate the exact procedure to be explained, indicate audience requirements, and provide an overview of contents.
  • Make sure that you use the various types of lists wherever appropriate. In particular, use numbered vertical lists for sequential steps.
  • Use headings to mark off all the main sections and subheadings for subsections. (Remember that no heading “Introduction” is needed between the title and the first paragraph. Remember not to use first-level headings in this assignment; start with the second level.)
  • Use special notices as appropriate.
  • Make sure you use the style and format for all headings, lists, special notices, and graphics as specified by your teacher for instruction writing assignments.
  • Use graphics to illustrate any key actions or objects, and make certain they are located right beside or beneath the step they illustrate and properly labeled.
  • Provide additional supplementary explanation of the steps as necessary.
  • Remember to create a section listing equipment and supplies, if necessary.

Some final thoughts about writing instructions.  As a technical or workplace writer, your ability to write good instructions carries a number of ethical implications. Keep in mind that poorly or carelessly designed instructions leave you or your company liable for damages. They also destroy your credibility and authority. Before you submit any instructions for final review, be sure you get other eyes on them. For small or routine procedures, it may be enough to have a coworker look them over, but more complex instructions should always be tested for usability. Make sure that you have read the chapter on Usability Testing and carried out the necessary testing before your instructions go to publication and distribution.

An Introduction to Technical Communication Copyright © by sherenahuntsman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Instruction Writing

Improve your child's instruction writing skills.

instruction write up

Writing clear instructions is a skill your child will have to develop early in their academic life as it will be required throughout high school and beyond, into their professional life as an adult. This writing style has specific characteristics that ensure readers are able to follow and understand what they are being told to do.

Types of instruction writing include:

  • Step-by-step guides
  • Instruction manuals
  • Cooking recipes
  • Travel guides

Learning about instruction writing will also improve your child’s explanation writing skills, as it requires attention to detail, critical thinking and a logical sequence of events to ensure the reader is able to follow these directions.

Writing instructions can also help children understand the importance of clarity in writing and teach them how to use adverbs or adjectives to add relevant context and helpful advice.

We’re here to help your child writer master the art of instruction writing! This page includes guidance from education experts on how you can teach writing instructions to your child, including free worksheets for them to practice.

What is instruction writing?

When writing instructions, your child will need to have attention to detail and knowledge of what they’re explaining, to ensure that the reader can successfully follow their directions.

Instructions are written for all kinds of activities, from cooking, to DIY, to gaming! Explicit instructions are needed to ensure that the reader is able to successfully follow each step until they finalize the product, dish, or project being worked on.

At elementary/primary school level, children should focus on making instructions factual and impartial, to ensure they are writing clear, explicit instructions.

How to write a good set of instructions

In order for your child to write a good set of instructions, they need to include a variety of details that are easy to understand and follow. Here's a list of "instructions" for your child to follow during the instruction writing process:

  • Start all instruction writing pieces with a clear title and brief introduction.
  • List the equipment/materials the reader will need underneath the title.
  • Order each instruction, step by step, using numbers.
  • Ensure that each step follows a logical sequence.
  • Technical writing may be needed.
  • Use action words (verbs) to tell the reader what to do.
  • Use describing words (adverbs) to explain how things should be done in detail.
  • Ensure your child is revising their work as they write each instruction.

Example of a good set of instructions

Looking for further guidance? Use this example to help your child apply the rules above to their own writing:

How to Build a Snowman

  • 6 small rocks
  • Push your snow into a pile.
  • Roll your pile of snow into a ball.
  • Make a second, smaller ball.
  • Carefully place the smaller ball on top of the larger ball.
  • Decorate using the carrot for a nose, the sticks for arms, and the rocks for the eyes and mouth.

Activity & resource

Now that we’ve reviewed what instructions are, talked about what’s necessary to make a good set of instructions, and provided you with an example, it’s time for your child to have a go! The template below will transform your young learner into an instruction writing master! It includes an example, prompts, and sentence starters to guide your child.

Instruction writing resource.

How Night Zookeeper can help

Night Zookeeper logo, displayed on tablet screen.

Night Zookeeper is the perfect resource for your child to develop and practice their knowledge of different writing styles! Our reading & writing program for kids can be used by homeschoolers, teachers, or as a supplemental learning resource to improve your child’s writing skills.

Our program uses gamification to teach writing in a fantastically fun way, and includes thousands of high-quality writing activities and resources, such as interactive lessons, word games, reading comprehension challenges, and much more!

All student writing submitted is also graded by our team of tutors, who provide encouraging comments and feedback to support your child’s progress!

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How to teach instruction writing.

  • Choose relevant and engaging examples. Let the class see the types of writing they will be doing
  • Explain each part of the example and give them ideas for different types of each example
  • Do lots of talking first. Have students give each other instructions and discuss how difficult it can be.
  • Write together as a class. Group writing is very helpful as it models the expectations and gives children ideas
  • Practice the thing they will be writing about. If they are writing instructions for how to make a sandwich, make a sandwich together in class talking about each step.
  • Scaffold their writing with handouts and prompts.

What topics are good for instruction writing?

teaching-ideas-instruction-writing

Almost anything can be turned into an instructional writing topic. Children can write about the things they do every day in school, you can have them tell each other about hobbies they might have or relate it to the class book. Children love to be the expert and discuss the things they know with each other. Pairing them up to talk about their interests can be a great first step in the process.

When using a class book it is a good idea to talk about the things the characters are doing in the book. Did they just sky dive out of a plane? How do you think someone could do that? Even if they don’t know how you can talk as a class and make up rules you think they might need to follow.

Fantasy and magic books are perfect for instruction writing as they allow the kids to include anything they feel is important. Making a secret potion? The ingredients and special steps can be anything the class can think up. Or keeping a pet unicorn? Well, that will require all kinds of special instructions.

How do I teach the structure of instruction writing?

instruction-writing-teaching

The best way to teach the structure of any writing is to read examples together. Show the class good examples of instructions and work together to list all the important parts. They have equipment lists and step-by-step details. Good instructions will also come with an introduction, maybe a warning note and possibly further information for the reader. Making a template is also a good idea, this helps them to remember how it fits together. Finally, make sure to practice as a class using the template before sending them off to do it alone.

  • Read instructions together
  • Make notes on the structure
  • Create a class instructions template
  • Practice together using the template
  • Send the kids off to write their own

What are some good examples of instruction writing?

Some great examples of instruction writing can be found on everyday items such as cooking recipes or instructions for household items. Many books have instructions in them without explicitly saying so. David Walliams is very good at this, his books incorporate lots of different types of writing.

Writing your own example before the lesson is also a good option as you can be sure to include all the parts that you want your class to remember.

What resources can I use to teach instructional writing?

There are many examples of instruction writing online, I have a free starter activity for instructional writing on baking a cake here .

If you are looking for a complete lesson, my lesson on how to write instructions for a pet dragon takes the class through the steps and goals of the lesson with a starter video to prompt discussion. If you are looking for more than a one off lesson, my whole unit of instruction writing covers two weeks, 10 lessons, of English work. Starting with exploring different types of instruction writing and building to create their own instructional texts with a purpose.

teaching-reading-writing-instruction

I also have many lessons on instructions taken from different reading books, such as instructions on how to pull off a robbery for Gangsta Granny and how to have a bath in a pond from Mr Stink.

Teaching instruction writing tips

teaching-packs-instruction-writing

  • Don’t feel you have to stick to everyday actions – the more unusual the more scope for writing.
  • Give lots of examples – the learning happens with the reading first
  • Have fun with the lesson – practice the instructions first or act out the more fantasy-related examples.
  • Practice together as a class – getting used to the idea of writing in this way takes lots of repetition.
  • Give the children prompts and scaffolded texts to work from – holding everything in memory is hard!

    Check out my free resources and classroom activities here 

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The Basics of Instructional Writing: 3 Simple Steps

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Instructional writing, as the name suggests, provides instructions on how to do something. Whether they are instructions on making lemonade, assembling furniture, operating a machine, repairing a printer, or using a software application, the basics of instructional writing are the same.  

Here are some guidelines to follow when creating instructional content: 

Plan the content  

Study and understand the procedure that you need to document.  

Organize complex procedures into a series of tasks. 

Identify the steps involved in completing each task. 

Arrange the steps in sequence. Make sure to not miss even small steps. 

Add tips or helpful hints and notes where required.   

How do you determine when to break down a procedure into tasks?  

Take the example of an instructional manual for a software application. A simple procedure like "How to log in to the application" can be described in a few steps whereas a more involved procedure like "How to manage user accounts and user roles" can include many steps. It makes sense to break down such procedures into tasks. 

Example (Log in procedure that contains only a single task)  Note: Instructions for the task are provided in this example. 

How to log in to the application: 

Launch the application.  

In the Log In window that displays, enter the username and password, and click Log in. 

The Home screen displays the main user interface. 

Example (User role set up procedure that contains multiple tasks)  Note: Instructions for each task are not provided in this example. 

How to manage user accounts and user roles: 

Task 1 - Add, modify, or delete user roles 

Task 2 - Set up user accounts and user groups 

Task 3 - Assign roles to users/groups 

Task 4 - Set up module access to user groups 

Tip: As demonstrated in the example above, it is best to break down complex procedures into multiple smaller tasks with less steps in each task rather than keep it as a single long procedure with 50 or 70 steps. Tasks with fewer steps (less than 20) will be easier for the reader to follow. 

Organize and structure the content 

Provided below is a typical content structure for an instructional guide: 

A heading that clearly identifies the procedure being documented  

A brief introduction to the procedure 

Any prerequisites that the user should be aware of 

Learning Objectives for each procedure, if applicable for your content 

Tasks in each procedure organized in a logical sequence 

A heading that clearly identifies each task (ideally this should include the action verb for the task)   (For example – Apply an existing color scheme, Create a new color scheme, Modify a color scheme, Create room-specific color scheme) 

Steps within each task organized sequentially using numbered lists and enhanced with graphical references, where required 

Warnings, tips, hints, or notes to provide additional information 

A concluding step that indicates the completion of a task 

The screenshot below is a sample of instructional writing from the ASCENT learning guide Autodesk Inventor 2023: Advanced Assembly Modeling . 

Test your content 

This is an important final step to ensure that the instructions are complete and that there are no missing steps.   

If you are tasked with writing instructions for a product or procedure but are unsure of how to begin, let the technical writers at ASCENT help! Please reach out so we can discuss your project. Email us at: [email protected]   

About the Author Technical Writer and Editor<br><br>Surya has been writing and editing technical content for over two decades in multiple industries. How do you transform complex technical content into an easy-to-understand document? Ask Surya - technical writing is her passion! She has been with ASCENT since 2018. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature, and a diploma in Journalism, and is a certified Technical Writer. Follow on Linkedin More Content by Surya Nair

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Write Instructions for Use

How To Write Instructions For Use (IFU)?

Category: Standard Operating Procedures

Last updated on Apr 3, 2024

Have you ever wondered how these lab technicians get training to use the new devices?

Though they attend in-person training, they need user manuals handy that comply with regulatory requirements and compliance standards.

Who should deploy these instructions to use?

The manufacturer is responsible for analyzing the security reports and developing instructions for use. Failing to provide clear and comprehensive IFU can lead to frustration and inadvertently misuse of the tool, leading to severe complications. So, the big question is how to write a comprehensive set of instructions for use.

Table of Contents

What is an instruction for use, what is the purpose of instructions for use, benefits of having an effective ifu, how to write an ifu, write an ifu and not a user manual, choose the right tool for writing an ifu, why document360.

When machinery is released into the service market, it should be sold with IFU. IFUs carry information to the user on the product’s intended purpose, proper usage instructions, and precautions to be taken while installing or using the product. The IFU is prepared by the applicant ( manufacturer), and it is reviewed and approved by FDA

The content on IFU can vary widely depending on the complexity of the product and associated risk in handling. For example,  Not only medical devices but also industrial machinery, household appliances, and electrical goods all come with IFUs.

Mainly used in the medical industry, IFUs are created for prescription drugs and medical devices.

IFUs are included in all devices, even if an existing device exists.

Let us understand this with an example.

Your company manufactures a medical device and now has come out with a better version. The difference between the two devices includes slight modifications. These small changes that are intended to improve the quality of the product even when the original is still on the market also need to be included in the detailed description of the device.

The Code of Federal Regulations specifies that, except for Class I and Class IIA , all other medical equipment, devices, and accessories sold for clinical use must include an IFU. The exception is given because it can be used safely without any instructions.

Class I products are low-risk devices and include

  • Non electric wheelchairs
  • Handheld surgical instruments

Class IIA products account for 43% of medical devices. They generally impact a patient’s well-being more through longer periods of sustained contact. Some of the products are:

  • Blood Pressure Cuffs
  • Powered Wheelchairs
  • Contact Lenses
  • Pregnancy kits
  • Software used as Diagnostic Tools

The FDA generally accepts and includes the format below in sequential order:

  • Table of contents
  • Purpose of the device
  • Set up instructions
  • Operating instructions
  • Importance of the need to monitor the activity of the device
  • Cleaning instructions
  • Storage instructions
  • Troubleshooting information

An effective IFU is vital not only to a manufacturer’s products but also to people’s lives. When you read any prescription drug or supplements or use a medical device, it is the directions written on an IFU that may act as a life changer, saving by preventing an injury or any harm, including death.

  • Enhanced Safety

When the instructions are laid out clearly, users will understand how to use medical devices safely. It also helps in reducing the risk of misuse or injury.

  • Minimizes Liability

Thorough instructions can help mitigate liability risks for manufacturers as they state that reasonable steps have been taken to inform the users about the product.

  • Reduced Errors

When the instructions for use are clear, the risk of errors on a user’s part is reduced as the proper dosage is mentioned or the device is set up. It also helps improve the treatment outcome.

  • Facilitate User Adoption

When an IFU is user-friendly, it automatically makes it easier for a user to adopt the product. It also leads to better usage and word-of-mouth publicity.

  • Training and Education

IFU is just not any document. It acts as an educational resource for healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients. It helps them understand how to use the product effectively.

  • Increased Trust

When the IFU is well crafted, it instills trust in the manufacturer. It also shows the manufacturer’s commitment to adding value by caring for the smallest details.

  • Improved User Experience

When a user can follow the instructions well, it may add to their smooth experience, which may further lead to increased confidence in the manufacturer.

To create and organize the content and format of the IFU, you need a systematic process. Before you begin writing instructions or directions for use, you need to understand the 7 top things to consider.

  • Intended Use
  • Usability Engineering Process
  • Risk Management Process
  • Standard Documents
  • General Safety and Performance Requirements
  • Legal Requirements
  • Product Requirements

Let’s dive a little deeper to understand these seven considerations

1. Intended Use

The intended use is what you, as a manufacturer, say about your medical device. It is defined as:

“intended use intended purpose use for which a product, process, or service is intended according to the specifications, instructions, and information provided by the manufacturer. “

– ISO 14971:2019, 3.6

What you must do is adjust the language to your audience. Say, for example, if the device is going to be used by medical professionals, then it can have medical language. If your users are regular people with varying cognitive abilities, the language may be adjusted accordingly.

Your instructions for the use of medical devices should be aligned with the intended use.

2. Usability Engineering

From a regulatory point of view, and 62366-1:2015 standard , “strictly focuses on applying the usability engineering process to optimize the medical device usability as it relates to safety”.

You can use the usability engineering process to achieve user-friendliness. User specification and thoroughly performed risk management will provide input as to

  • What information to put into your instructions for use
  • Any requirements on that information
  • How the information is presented

The usability engineering process focuses on the user interface and safety of the device.

3.     Risk Management

Besides focusing on the life cycle phases, the risk management process also focuses on the aspects of medical devices. It not only includes risks from regular use but also any possible misuse.

  • A simple warning in the IFU is not accepted as a way of reducing risk
  • To reduce risk, put it on the information on the product
  • Ensure this information is repeated in the IFU

4.     Standard Documents

You need to look at at least two particular standards when creating instructions for the use of medical devices

  • EN 1041:2008 – EN 1041 and ISO 20417 specifically describe the information that must be provided by the manufacturer and would most often be found in the instructions used.
  • EN ISO 15223-1:2016 –  The 15223-1 contains symbols used on medical devices, particularly on the label. Make sure you explain the symbols in the instructions for use.

The FDA has issued guidance documents according to best practices on how to write instructions for users and labeling. They are excellent guides for anyone trying to write instructions for the use of medical devices.

5. General Safety and Performance Requirements

Found in Annex I of the Medical Device Regulation, the general safety and performance requirements contain several sections specifying information that must be found in the instructions for use. For example, it requires you to include,

  • The registered trade name of the device
  • The registered trademark of the manufacturer
  • The registered address of the place of business
  • An indication that the device contains a medicinal substance (human blood or plasma or tissues or cells of human origin, or tissues or cells of animal origin or their derivatives)
  • The CE mark (the product is in the market other than as an investigational device)

Check out our blog: Medical Device Documentation

6. Legal Requirements

Usually full of trademarks, a legal department may have opinions about your instructions for use. It is better if you include

  • Various types of disclaimers
  • Copyright statements to prohibit unauthorized copying
  • Acceptable communication regarding the legal relationship between the customer and the manufacturer

7. Product Requirements

Most newly developed medical devices use the design inputs established at the onset of the project. If this is also the case with your device, you may include them in the product specification, giving the user information on things such as:

  • Operating temperatures
  • Accuracy of measurements
  • EMC an immunity
  • Other important technical aspects

Now that you understand the requirements for directions for use let us now get to how to write an IFU

Schedule a demo with one of our experts to take a deeper dive into Document360

Document360

Instruction for Use needs to be clear, easy to understand, in a step-by-step hierarchy. Make the content easy to consume by formatting it well by adding headings, sub-heads, paragraphs, listicles, steps, sections, and more. The more clarity there is, the easier it will be to comprehend.

Here’s an example of how an IFU can look like

instruction for use template

It is recommended that you

  • Use active voice
  • Write short steps
  • Use images to illustrate

Understand your audience, requirements, and preferences, and then write for them.

Font and Formatting

Fonts from the sans-serif family, such as Verdana and Arial, work best for IFUs. And font size 10pt or above

You can use font size 8pt. or above for

  • Name and place of business (manufacturer, packer, or distributor)
  • Verbatim statement (This “Instructions for Use” has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
  • Date of approval or revision of the IFU by the FDA

Other things to consider

  • Write INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE in uppercase letters and in bold
  • Product titles, Headings, Step numbers, and Figure titles are also in bold

You can refer to Instructions for Use  – Patient Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products and Drug-Device and Biological-Device Combination – Content and Format for further guidance.

Editing, Proofreading, and Iteration

Write your content, take a break, and then proofread. Look for typos or grammatical errors, change confusing sentences to simple sentences, and fine-tune your document. Creating an error-free instruction manual can help you leave a good impression on your user.

User Feedback

If possible, listen to your audience by encouraging users’ feedback. Use constructive criticism to refine your content.

Make sure you write an IFU and not a user manual. A user manual is a comprehensive reference on how to operate and maintain a product. An IFU is written to accomplish a specific task, focusing on performing tasks on said medical device. 

Medical devices can be complex. And writing an instructions manual may be more so. It could require users to understand specific storage, use, or disposal information. Optimally, it is best to have the most intuitive design possible so that users can understand how to use it. However, it is not always possible. IFUs help manufacturers to convey the intended information while supporting safe and effective product use.

The best tool to write an effective IFU is a CCMS (Component Content Management System) that offers features such as

  • Content Management
  • Structured Authoring
  • Support to Localization
  • Collaboration Features
  • Advanced Analytics and Reporting
  • Compliance with Regulatory Measures and more

Document360 lets you create IFUs with a clear structure and hierarchy. Eddy , the AI Concierge helps users quickly find the most accurate information. Also, you can add images, screenshots, and drawings to your document and easily make changes to your IFU. It is easier to update the document with a version control feature, keeping track of all updates.All this and more makes it easier for your users to find the information they need without going through any friction points. Create and manage your IFU documentation more efficiently.

medical knowledge base  example

An unsafe product use due to misleading instructions can cause injuries, and manufacturers can be held liable for it. Manufacturers in today’s world must create online help documentation to help clients with questions regarding their medical devices.

  • Prioritize user safety
  • Warn users about potential hazards
  • Provide clear instructions on how to manage the device

A single adverse event can disturb the equilibrium of your work, so play it safe and always include comprehensive safety information.

An intuitive SOP software to easily add your content and integrate it with any application. Give Document360 a try!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ifu.

An Instructions for Use document, IFU provides clear and easy-to-understand instructions on how to use a medical product or device best and safely. The IFU must include the device’s intended purpose, description, warning, maintenance, and disposal instructions. It should also include the manufacturer’s contact information in case a user has any queries or issues.

Does the FDA require an IFU?

Yes. The FDA requires manufacturers of medical products and devices to provide an IFU with specific instructions on how to effectively use, take care of, and dispose of it.

IFUs are controlled and mandated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). All medical manufacturers need to provide detailed IFUs to consumers. Also, a standard set by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), “ANSI/AAMI ST79:2017 states that the current written IFU should be accessible, reviewed, and followed. If no specific written IFU is available, the manufacturer should be contacted and requested to provide a documented cleaning method.”

Are IFUs applicable to both hardcopy and eIFUs?

Yes. the IFU symbol (5.4.3) applies to both hard and soft copies. However, eIFU is not specified in the Medical Device Rules 2017.

Is an IFU applicable to a low-risk medical device?

No. Several low-risk medical devices come without an IFU.

What does an IFU need to include?

An IFU must include a detailed description of a medical device. The instructions must be laid out and any differences between that of your device and that of your competitors or the previous version of your same device should also be included.

Some of the key elements to be included are

Device description, specification, accessories, and variants

Design and manufacturing information

Label and packaging information

Instructions for use in local languages where the device will be sold

Product verification and validation 

General safety and performance information

Identify all sites where design and manufacturing activities are performed

Pre-clinical and clinical data

What are the best practices to write an IFU?

Some of the best practices you should follow when writing your medical device IFU documentation include

Prioritize clarity and understanding

Provide visual aids for complex concepts

Follow content hierarchy for easy navigation

Ensure easy readability of the document

Maintain adherence to regulations

Use an AI-powered documentation tool

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Jubina Prabhakaran

Mar 29, 2024

Collaborative writing on technical teams

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Failure to Follow Instructions Charge for Federal Employees

Failure to follow instructions

Failure to follow instructions is one of the most common grounds for discipline in the federal workplace. Yet, while the name is straightforward enough, not many federal employees know what the charge involves. This lack of knowledge can make it difficult to defend yourself if your supervisor is proposing disciplinary action against you for failing to follow orders. Here at Pines Federal, our experienced MSPB lawyers are passionate about empowering and defending federal employees. We wrote this article to fully explain the charge of failure to follow instructions. Read on to learn more about the charge and how to respond when your supervisor issues you a failure to follow instructions write-up.Please reach out to us online or call (800) 801-0598 today to request a consultation.

Breaking Down the Charge: Elements

When an agency charges an employee with failure to follow instructions, they must prove three specific elements. First, they have to prove that they issued you an instruction or order. Next, they must show that the instruction or order was lawful and proper. Finally, they have to show that you did not follow the instruction.

Clarity of the Instruction

Let’s unpack these elements in more detail, starting with the order issuance. One consideration here is that your employer’s instructions are clear. Specifically, they must be clear enough to notify you that you must do something. When your employer issues the instruction in writing (e.g., memo, letter, e-mail, handbook, etc.), it’s tough to dispute the clarity of the instruction. But in situations where the instruction was oral, then it’s a different ballgame entirely. In that case, the resolution of this issue will turn on the credibility of two witnesses: you and whoever claimed to issue you the instruction.

Proprietary of the Instruction

The second element is somewhat vague. What exactly is proper instruction? The general rule is that you must follow the agency’s directions unless doing so would place you or someone else in imminent danger or cause irreparable harm. These exceptions are few and far between. Consequently, the safest action for a federal employee is to follow the instruction and grieve it later. Many people call this the “obey now, grieve later” rule.

Following the Instruction

The third element is a fact-intensive examination. Maybe you thought you followed the instruction or did your best to comply. Or you may believe that they disobeyed the instruction by accident. Whatever the case, it’s an uphill battle. The charge of “failure to follow instructions” does not require the agency to show that you intended to disobey or intentionally failed to follow the instruction. That said, it can still help your case if a judge finds that you were unable to follow an instruction by accident. It might result in the judge mitigating your penalty down the road.

The Role of a Federal Employment Attorney

You may feel the temptation to represent yourself after your employer proposes disciplinary action against you . However, a federal employment attorney can make a massive difference in the outcome of your case. This is because of their legal training and experience with similar cases. A federal MSPB lawyer’s ample experience defending employees allows them to employ valuable tactics. For instance, you can produce facts to help you by asking the Deciding Official (or Proposing Official in discovery or at a hearing) why they didn’t charge you with insubordination if your misconduct was so severe. Rarely will a Deciding Official be able to answer this question satisfactorily. At closing, this gives you an argument that the misconduct was not as grievous as the agency wants the judge to think.

Reviewing the Charge Language: Insubordination vs. Failure to Follow Instructions

In addition, much will turn on the language in the specification for the specific charge. When you are charged with the misconduct of failure to follow instructions, it can be beneficial to have an attorney review the proposal letter. Many Agencies are not careful in drafting their charges and often include language that requires a heightened burden of proof. 

This is especially true when an agency tries to charge you with a mixed charge of “insubordination/failure to follow instructions.” When this happens, they will generally have to prove the charge of insubordination, which is much more difficult for them. After all, insubordination charges require the agency to prove that you acted with intent and willfully refused to follow an instruction. It also allows for a more significant penalty.

Are You a Federal Employee Facing Disciplinary Action for Not Following Instructions? Contact Us Today.

Responding to a charge of failure to follow instructions is not impossible. With education and the proper legal assistance, you can successfully overturn the charge and get your career back on track. However, you must involve an attorney in the process sooner rather than later. If you would like to consult with an MSPB attorney regarding your charge of failure to follow instructions, please contact Pines Federal online or call (800) 801-0598 today.

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How to Write Game Instructions

Last Updated: February 22, 2024

This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff . Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards. This article has been viewed 276,593 times. Learn more...

You've created a great new game, all polished up and ready to present. The last thing you need to put in is a set of instructions to help others learn how to play. Teaching a completely new game to the public is not always easy. It is important to remember that your audience has no idea how any aspect of your game works yet. That's where your set of game rules comes in. Writing game rules can take a bit of time. But it's important to include detailed instructions of the objective, all the pieces, and how the game is played.

Formatting Your Instructions

Step 1 Look at the instruction manual from some of your favorite games.

  • Take notes of how other instructions are formatted. Notice the hierarchy of the information explained. How the structure allows you to see the big picture. When writing your own rules try to follow a similar format.
  • Make a checklist of sections to include that you see in other instruction books. You can even emulate the style if you want.

Step 2 Write your instructions to be read aloud.

  • Have the tense reflect someone reading out loud during the play of the game. This means that your tense and tone should default to present tense, active voice, and be pithy, or quick.
  • Whether you’re explaining the game that you created for the first time, or someone else is explaining it with your rulebook, you want to make the text quick and easy to understand.
  • For example, if you have a board game about two countries at war, you might explain the objective like: “You are a member of one of the two countries at war. You are assigned a role to aid your country. The goal of the game is to work together to defeat the enemy country in one of three ways: You can win by destroying the country through war, assassinating the country’s leader, or being the first country to go into space.”
  • With simple descriptions and an active voice you can easily get a good amount of information out. Players now know the objective and winning methods of the game.

Step 3 Use the second person.

  • The second person helps you when reading, as well as other players learning the game in the future.
  • There are times when you don’t have to use the second person. When describing what certain objects or tokens may do for a player, you can use “The player…” if it makes more sense.
  • To avoid situations where using the second person sounds awkward, remember to try and use active voice. Instead of “The cards are shuffled.” Say “You shuffle the cards.” This active voice also gives the players strong direction of what to do.

Step 4 Make game terms easy to find and understand.

  • For example, if you mention that one way to win is to kill the enemy’s leader, state where you can find the instructions on how to do this. Add separate section that explains this in more detail.
  • If you have room, you can briefly explain the term before continuing on. Never include a term that new players won’t understand without explaining it.
  • Always show players where to find more information on the term.

Creating Your Instructions

Step 1 Explain the concept or goal of the game.

  • The summary will explain why the two countries are at war. They used to be a single country, but one part rebelled. Now both countries are using all available resources to win the revolution. The game's objective is to win your side's revolution.

Step 2 Write your instructions in order and in context.

  • You may want to start with a brief summary of the game. Then include up at the top which pieces are included. Then move on to the objective, the setup, how the play operates, and what each piece or character does. After explaining how you win, you may include more sections that deeper explains objects, moves, or player types you touched on earlier.
  • Your instructions should work like a book or story. You start with a table of contents. After that you may have a preface or forward, something that outlines your game. This can be your objective. When explaining the rules and different parts of the game’s flow, do it in the order that it will happen. It should follow a beginning, middle, and end.
  • You'll also want to include a brief section early on that details how many players can play, and the age range.
  • Explain the setup before you explain the start of play so that players can set up the board. When the players finish reading about the setup, the next section should explain how to start playing. Following, you will have a style of play. For example, if you have a turned based game, next explain how the turns work. If the turns lead to combat, you will next explain combat and the components of that.

Step 3 Group like information together.

  • Write your instructions so that players can understand how to play in the easiest way possible. Put all the ways to score points together. Explain the turns in one section.
  • If you are explaining how a turn works and then need to explain that at the end of every turn a player draws one type of card, that's’ ok. You can even explain the types of cards the player may draw. But refer the reader to a separate section that details what each card means and does.

Step 4 List and explain all objects in the game, individually and in depth.

  • It’s crucial that the player understands what the cards, pieces, units, etc., represents.
  • Consider drawing or sketching your pieces, even if this is just for fun, to serve as a visual aid. Separate the objects and group like ones together.

Finalizing Game Instructions

Step 1 Read over your game instructions.

  • Do you not explain the objective well enough? Are you using second person and active voice consistently? Do you understand how the setup, turns, and winning work?
  • If there are trouble spots make note of these areas and revise. Your instructions should be easy to understand so people can play your game as soon as possible.

Step 2 Show some examples.

  • You may need to include multiple turns to fit all the interactions. Use notations to explain this part of the game.
  • Add a separate section that goes into fuller detail, if needed.

Step 3 Consider including strategy tips.

  • List any and all special scenarios that might otherwise confuse the player. Include strategic methods for winning in the scenario. This step can either be really quick and easy; or it can be the bulk of your explanation, depending on how your game works.
  • This step is really a judgment call. But if you suspect that a certain aspect of the game might be unclear, take the time to fully explain the outcome of that scenario.

Step 4 Include any extras or possible game variants at the end.

  • The main instructions explain the operation of the game.
  • If your game includes other elements that aren’t used specifically for the main game, take the time to explain those here.

Step 5 Format your pages so that people can easily read the instructions.

  • Formatting includes the layout and order of the instructions. But it also includes the kind of font and spacing you include. If you are typing, don’t pick a crazy font that’s hard to read. If you are hand-writing, write legibly.
  • Don’t clump all your instructions into block paragraphs. Use bullet points when you can. Break up the text with a visual aid if possible.
  • Have someone read over your game instructions. Get a second pair of eyes to read your instructions and check for any errors. This person can also tell you if your instructions make sense and where to better explain things.

What Are Best Practices For Writing Game Instructions?

Expert Q&A

  • Adding humor can be helpful. It can also hurt. Your first goal is to explain how to play the game. If you feel that humor fits, go and try it out. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Start with the most familiar aspect of the game, and build on any foreign concepts off of the familiar aspect. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Try not to overcorrect when including basic info on a term or piece that you will explain fully in a separate section later. If you're explaining that a player draws cards at the end of a turn, don't explain all possible card draws. Instead, tell the player where more information can be found. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

wikiHow Staff

Your game instructions will be the first thing new players read, so it’s important to make them easy to understand and comprehensive. Write the instructions with short sentences and straightforward language, since it’s likely they’ll be read aloud in a group. Include a brief summary of how the game works and what the goal is early on so the players get an idea of the big picture. The remaining sections should follow a logical order, like having a description of the pieces first, then talking about how the play works, which moves the pieces can make, and how a player can win. Try to keep each section of the instructions short and focused to help the players understand what they have to do. However, if you feel like additional details are necessary, include a reference to an extra section nearer the end of the instructions. That way, the players get a general overview of how your game works before getting into smaller details. For tips on how to include strategy advice in your instructions, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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